Eleanor leaned in and squished his pudgy three year-old cheeks in her hands. A sweet string of high-pitched giggly words danced from her lips as she interacted with a friend’s little boy. A little boy who spent his infancy growing in tandem with our Graham. And when Graham stopped growing, this little boy didn’t. Which of course is heartwarming… and somehow still – horrible. It’s been years since Eleanor leaned in towards baby Graham, years since she’s actually played with him… and yet in some strange, disconnected way, Graham was there in this moment.
This little boy, smiled back sweetly and gently kicked at Nora with his stinky feet. I watched the two of them with a placid smile empty of energy. I realized quietly that I recognized the ripples of peace flowing through me… I realized now how grateful I was for the presence of peace, because I was suddenly so very sad.
The moment was simple and fleeting but the massiveness of my son broke through and I ached. I imagine no one noticed. Maybe they wondered… maybe not. The surface was so still, even as the torrent grumbled just out of sight.
I wanted so badly to reach out to Nora and whisper in her ear, “Do you remember? Do you miss him too?” But it seemed so unfair somehow, to break into her joy-filled moment, so I remained quiet under my smile.
Hours later, the little boy was gone, now residing entirely with his own family – no longer straddling the space of Graham’s emptiness. I was hurrying my girls along, grabbing supplies for an afternoon outing, Nora dawdled and complained. Her whiny tone was wearisome and I began to walk ahead of her, hoping to inspire a rally of attitude… instead, my girl suddenly dropped all of the things she was carrying, threw her face towards the sky and opened her mouth to form a silent wail.
Frustrated, I walked back towards her and as I knelt in front of her she hiccupped out the words, “Mama, I miss Graham.”
The wave of truth hit me full force and I melted into my small daughter…”Of course you, do. Of course.”
I almost missed it. It didn’t come when or how I expected, but he was there in her heart all along. She discovered him and the hole that resembled him, differently than I had but all the same authentically and painfully, and I almost missed it. Grief these days can be hard to spot, difficult to recognize… But he’s still everywhere and nowhere, always.
“I miss Graham.” An ocean of truth that can’t begin to touch the magnitude.