Last night I was having a conversation in my head. Just me and some random stranger. Please indulge me and for the time being let's ignore the fact that it's a little crazy to have imaginary conversations with imaginary strangers and just focus on the subject of said discussion, okay?
Not surprisingly, it was Thomas-themed.
I was being asked by a stranger if I had children and, upon confirmation, how old they were. And suddenly the pretend conversation ground to a screeching halt.
How old is Thomas?
The bereaved have a tendency to age their children as the months and years pass. For the first year of what should have been Thomas' life I obsessively made note of the 9th of every month and mentally added that month on to his age. He was dead, but he was also 6 months old, 7 months old, 8 months old. And on and on.
I don't count months anymore and I usually don't notice the 9th of the month either, but I still know how old my boy is.
Is? Was? What is it?!
When I talk about my grandparents (who are all dead) I don't age them. They are the age they were when they died. In fact I have to stop and think about how old they'd all be now. Two of them would have crested 100 years ago, but how many years I'm not sure.
That's because old people die and cease to move forward. Why is it so different for babies? Why am I so obsessed with knowing how old Thomas is and moving him forward in time as though he was actually here growing older with the rest of us?
I wonder if when I'm 80 I'll find myself in the dusty, urine-scented sitting room of a nursing home imagining a conversation between me and another resident in which I tell her that my son is nearly 46.
Will it go on that long? I can't imagine not knowing how old Thomas would be at any given moment. I just know it, like I know how to breathe.
He's two years, 7 months old.
Or should be, depending upon which side of the bereavement fence you sit.