The question just sort of hung in the air.
I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Well, I suppose Graham won’t have a room in our new house… I guess he doesn’t really need one anymore, does he?”
Graham hasn’t made use of his room for a while now… but its remained his all the same.
The function and purpose of his room has gone through a variety of changes in the three and a half years since I last lay him to sleep in his crib.
A couple of the photographs and art on the walls hasn’t been touched, a few other pieces have been moved around, added or taken away.
My favorite art in the room was purchased on a lonely day of empty grief. I walked through the store aimlessly while imagining all the things I would like to buy for my son if he was still mine. Suddenly I stopped in front of a piece of art and listened as his name screamed in my heart, GRAHAM!
I wavered and trembled. I’m not supposed to do this, what would people think if they knew I was buying this for a dead child… in a rush of confusion and self loathing and love, somehow with a lot of love, I threw the print in my cart and made a beeline to the checkout. “Fuck it. I can buy my son whatever I want to — just tell me I can’t” I hung it on his wall and have never, ever regretted the decision.
When my sister lived with us she filled Graham’s room with her own things. For a time it became “Nastya’s room”. I didn’t resent her presence in the least but I missed being able to freely go in and just be. When she moved out, it naturally and easily became ‘Graham’s room’ once again. I think we all liked the opportunity to say his name.
We used the closet for storage, I put together a little reading nook with the kids’ old baby glider. Evan moved his desk up and for awhile it was our work and school hub. We all stole moments here and there to use the space, appreciate the serenity – whenever we need to.
Every now and again at bed time the girls will bicker and fight in their shared room rather than drift peacefully off to sleep. “Split up!” I holler up the stairs, “One of you move to Graham’s room”. It’s almost always Eleanor who moves to his next-door room.
His room has housed sweet little foster children. Precious souls in need of safety and respite. His room has become haven… for all of us. Not a shrine, not even memorial exactly… just a place. A place for him, a place for us… where we can still remember.
“But what if we need one? You know, a place for Graham?” Charlotte asked earnestly.
“Yes, you’re right, we’ll always need a place for him, won’t we…” I trailed off.
The truth is I don’t know what that will look like. I have no desire to recreate his room in the new house – it just wouldn’t work – not practically, not emotionally either – besides, the thing we really need is him, and the moment I lose sight of that I do us all a grave injustice.
All the same, as we pack the boxes in preparation to walk away forever, each of us is holding on to a deep sadness and nagging fear. And of course it’s not just his room – this whole house contains his memory – we’re leaving a piece of him behind, and it seems there are no ‘new’ pieces to discover.
Time and circumstance are constantly moving us further away from him… a memory of a memory – a life once lived.
What would you suggest? How do we say goodbye, how do we say hello? Without Graham.