Many of my memories of Graham have a corresponding snippet of video or photo, but there are some that only exist in my mind. These are the most precious because they are wholly mine and so very vulnerable.
I cherish the times when Charlotte and Graham played together. She loved holding him and carrying him around. She would squish and squash him, always kissing him and dragging him about. Although she was almost always gentle and kind, we actually hollered at her quite a bit: “Put him down! “Let him do it himself” “Hands off!” “Quit messing!” He would fuss at her in exasperation sometimes, but truly, Charlotte’s hands-on playing seemed to bug us more than it ever did Graham. He loved his sister tremendously.
For Christmas, Graham was gifted with a set of handmade wooden blocks and immediately began perfecting the skill of knocking down towers. Both of his sisters took great pride in helping him craft his block toppling art. They were so proud of him, cheering him on and encouraging this special little person to do such big things!
One evening before dinner, Charlie and Graham were playing with his blocks. In his zeal, he wasn’t giving Charlotte sufficient time to build the tower up before he crashed things down. Frustrated, she picked him up in a hug hold under the arms, his shirt bunching up to display his fat little belly as his legs dangled like a monkey, and awkwardly carried him across the room. She deposited him behind the couch, and raced back to finish the tower. Keep in mind, the sole purpose she was building in the first place was so her little buddy could knock it down with gusto!
To Charlotte’s surprise, Graham was no match for her, and crawled back so fast she barely got the chance to stack two blocks before he bulldozed through! They both erupted in belly laughs and repeated the scene over and over. Each time, Charlotte was convinced she would be fast enough, and each time Graham beat her back! The moment finally ended with both of them completely incapacitated with laugher, rolling around on the carpet.
I love this memory because it demonstrates that they knew each other fully. Charlotte didn’t just lose her baby brother, she lost Graham. Raising children, I am humbled at the fullness of these little people. How complex and layered a human life is from the very beginning. I know Graham’s value is not contingent upon my memories of him – Graham is who he is regardless of the accuracy of my memories or how successfully I convey his truth to others…
Even so, I fear over time, Graham’s life with us will dwindle to few one-dimensional sound bites or images. “The Engels had a little boy once…”