We went to Disney, our family vacation for 3. I remember a friend with 3 kids telling us that Disney rides favor even numbers. It rang in my head every time that Parker or I got onto a ride alone. ‘There’s someone missing!’ The little voice said, ‘where’s number 4?’
It was like we went back before he was born. The trip was busy, we were busy. There was no time for reflection or tears. By the end of the day we were all so tired we would just fall asleep. There was a happiness there. In those moments we were free from some of the suffering. It’s not like we forgot it happened or pretended it didn’t, it was more like we could breathe, and just be. No one there knew our story. No one asked us how we were doing, if we were OK. It was a vacation from our grief.
Coming home was OK for the first day. The second day it was if the accident had just happened all over again. It became so fresh, so raw. I missed ‘missing’ him. I missed my daily cry and fist shaking anger at the Universe. I missed my number 4.
We all have the mouse ears with our names on them. Park err had received some from as family friend years ago and Darcy got her Minnie ears during our last trip in 2011. I got a pair to match Darcy’s and we got Benny a pair of his very own. We have to keep doing the hot dog dance even if the ring leader isn’t here to do it with us. I’m sure he’s teaching my mom, uncle, aunt, grandmother and cousins.
‘Life isn’t about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain.’
I love this quote. I don’t feel much like dancing and I’m damn tired of the rain, but we’ll get there. One day at a time.
Sunday became a major milestone for me. For the first time since the accident, I stepped foot into Bennett’s room. We’re going away and some friends and family are going to finish Benny’s closet. I’m excited, don’t get me wrong. For the first time I just realized it’s a change. It’s an inevitable step in moving forward that needs to happen.
I just got out of the shower and it hit me that his room would change slightly. That people would be in there. Maybe his smell would disappear or something would be moved, even if ever so slightly. I started to think about what Benny would want. He was so happy and so brave, those are the best words to describe him. Nothing scared him or held him back. It was time for me to be the same. Maybe not happy, but brave.
I cannot describe what it was like. I don’t know what I expected. He was gone and as hard as it was being in his room, his space, it didn’t make it any more final like I guess I expected it would. His pajamas that he had worn the night before it happened were draped over the crib, his little shoes were sitting expectantly on the changing table. It was heartbreaking. To be among his stuff and know that he will never wear those shoes, or play with his toys. To turn on the cat piano and listen to the ridiculous songs that he loved and know that he will never enjoy them again. There’s a whole world of Bennett contained in that one little room.
There’s still dirty laundry. Pacifiers keep showing up behind the crib, in the rocking chair. Benny is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I think Darcy said it best when she said he was invisible. His smell is gone, which kills me. You don’t lose a person all at once, but in pieces over time. I’m not ready for this.
I’ve never been so happy to see 12:01 in my life. It means that we made it, that we survived yet another heartbreaking milestone in Bennett’s death. We should not be measuring time by survival. I shouldn’t have to wail in pain to the Universe about how unfair this all is. Our lives should not have to be defined by his death.
Most days it’s enough that he was here. Most days I can smile and take joy from my daughters life and my husbands antics. Not at this moment. I welcome the numbness as a way to get through. I welcome the day to day tasks that I use as a way to escape. It still seems unreal, so awfully horrific. Like watching a movie, or living someone else’s life. Why did this happen?
When Benny was born we counted his life in months. I consider that my life ‘Before the accident’ or ‘BA’. Now we count his death in months (‘After the accident’ or ‘AA’). It’s like someone drew a line in the sand and we started counting backwards again. That’s how everything feels, backwards. It was 2 months ago today that I laid in bed in the morning like any other Friday while my kiddos ran and jumped around my room. 2 months ago Benny and I went shopping for a coat and birthday presents for his big sister. He spent most of the time in line flirting with the younger girl behind me. 2 months ago we were running late (per usual) to meet up with a friend. We went to the bouncy house place and I had a blast! Benny kept taking drinks from the water fountain and asking to ‘wash’ his hands. 2 months ago today I called my husband and told him that yeah, things might be financially tight, but I loved being a mom and even though I never expected him, I loved having a son. 2 months ago today we went to Wendy’s and Benny got fries and chicken nuggets and I felt so guilty he didn’t have any fruits or vegetables. He fell off the chair at the restaurant and I thought that was as bad as my day was going to get. 2 months ago I was marveling at the late afternoon snow while Bennett slept in the back of my car, so tired from our busy day. 2 months ago that I was removing him from the car and our world ended and this horrible new reality took hold. What I wouldn’t give to go back to 2 months ago + 1 day. What I wouldn’t give to memorize every dimpled smile, every laugh, every pout and every fit. I’ve thought about that day a lot and what I could have done differently, how I should have reacted. I’ve wondered if I had just brought him right up to bed like I was going to, and then gone down to the car, If I had jumped into the car, if, if, if. I need an undo button. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m not supposed to be here again.
What I wouldn’t give to be back in this moment. To be sitting here and enjoying Bennett’s first bites of Birthday cake with Darcy and Daddy. Like everything though, he had to do it big, over the top. Why just eat the ice cream cake when you can taste it, I mean really taste it with your eyelashes and your nose and your hair? That blue stuff doesn’t come off very easily in the tub either. But that’s how Benny did everything, all the way.
I had stopped giving him tubs because he refused to sit. He wanted to stand and hold the shower hose and be showered like his big sis, all before he was a year. It was like bathing a greased pig with big blue eyes. Such independence and spirit. I think the hardest thing is wondering how this huge personality has just disappeared. I just don’t get it, I cannot wrap my head around it. How did we end up here?