Thursday, November 09, 2006

Manufactured memories of a 20-month old boy

Most of the time when I think of Thomas, I remember him as he was, as I knew him; a tiny, perfect little baby. He's frozen in time, always my tiny baby.

But sometimes I don't just remember him as he was. Sometimes I think of him as he might be.

I just realized today that he's growing in my imagination, just as he would be if he was really here. I've been doing this for 20 months without really thinking about it. Children of friends and family have served as reference points. I can imagine how big he'd be, what he'd be capable of doing and the things he might be saying all based on what I've seen other children do.

I can't decide if this is crazy or not. Or if it is crazy if it's something I can stop. Or something I even want to stop. It's excruciating imagining that sandy-haired little mop top toddling through the house after me. But those short moments of reverie make me feel connected to him in some strange way.

Make no mistake, those moments hurt like hell when they end and I realize I'm standing here alone with just the ghost of a boy in my head, but they're still worth it in some really strange way.

Maybe it happens because usually when someone dies you have memories to hold onto - moments you had together that you can look back on and take comfort from. Things you can smile about, even through your sorrow and longing. Memories, they always say, are the things that keep people alive after they've gone.

Except I don't have any. I was robbed.

So maybe what I'm doing, in some bizarre, retroactive sort of way, is trying to create what didn't happen so that I can still have the comfort of memories. I'm owed some comfort, after all, even if I have to manufacture memories to get it.

Or maybe I really am just plain nuts.

Hard to tell. Hard to tell.


Denise said...

I don't think you are nuts...I imagine my grandparents playing with my son. They never got to meet him but in my mind they have played together. It's comforting to me and lets them be a part of his life even if it is only in my mind.

Kim said...

I would think it was more crazy if you didn't do that. Everyone copes in different ways, and I think it's only natural for a parent to imagine what would have been for their child.

kate said...

One of the things that makes the grief of losing a baby so difficult to process is precisely that lack of memories. And yeah, i do the same thing -- picture him as he would be. And when i *miss* something, some milestone, and realise it later -- that *really* hurts.

A while ago when i read Joan Didion's 'the year of magical thinking', i realized something interesting though. She talks about sifting, sifting through the memories of the years with her husband, over and over...and of course the actual sifting of memories with a baby is very little. There are really just so few. So part of my 'sifting' are thoughts of what 'should have been'...and part of my 'sifting' is talking to others who have been there and trying to help -- support groups, blogs, crafts etc.