"Do you want to go to bed?"
I shake my head. Because there is no escape from what I'm tired of; tears, regrets, guilt, sadness, longing unfulfilled.
"I wish I could do something," he says, fretfully.
"Me too," I say with a watery smile.
My eyes are burning - disuse? I haven't cried in a long while, not like this. My head aches. Everything is exacerbated by a bad day filled with setbacks, disruptions and frustrations. Until a late dinner, all I'd consumed all day was a venti mocha, a v8 fusion, a cup of water and a bite-sized Snickers. Certainly the intersection of dates and calendars and memory and this current incarnation of life is enough to produce this reaction without the anniversary weighing oppressively on me.
I don't understand it, not really. Gabriel will be no more dead in three hours - his official birthday arrived - than he was a week ago or than he will be a week from now. Why it should produce this tidal wave of emotion that embarrasses me (haven't I gotten past this yet? Will I never move beyond it?) . . . I don't know. I don't like it, because I can see how sad J is and I feel that I am making it worse.
I feel both self-indulgent (for taking a day off work when I can ill afford to do so) and ungenerous to myself (I'm going in tomorrow morning anyway, a crisis having arisen after business hours). It's only a day, a marker, yes, but a single day. Why should I mourn this day any more than any other in which Gabe is loved and missed?
And yet, all night, the tears have fallen, and I've been left whimpering as we opened the mail to find so many kind notes and remembrances and acknowledgments I am overwhelmed with gratitude and feelings of undeservedness.
Gabriel's name in stars.
A Library of Congress call number that is Gabriel's name and the year of his birth.
A letter filled with love.
A donation to March of Dimes in his name.
And a plush stuffed sage green kangaroo, with a soft creamy corduroy belly, because he had such long limbs and large feet.
Happy birthday wishes from all over, acknowledging the birth of a loved little boy a year ago.
Tears fall down and J asks again if I want to go to bed.
"No. I want to go far, far away."
"Some place where once upon a time still has a happy ending."
Given that any mention of his birth must be followed shortly by acknowledgment of his death, these token are treasured, and bittersweet. Like Gabe himself, I wouldn't trade them for anything.
Still, I'm sad. Perhaps it started when I re-read the blog entry from August 20, 2009. The beginning of once upon a time, the fairy tale I thought was unfolding. So much love and optimism and hope there that it physically hurt me to read. Because I know what happens next, what monster lurks at the end of that particular book. And I want so badly to reach through time and stop it there in that moment of happiness, in those four days of perfection with Gabriel before he was born. Or speed up time again until I am back where I was two weeks ago, sad, but calm; his death as close to integrated as I think is likely to happen.
There is no chance for either, though. I struggle with the notion that if I had a choice or a chance, I might do something differently. Bargains in fairy tales rarely work out the way one might wish. And while I'm changed and different, I can't say that I am all bad. There are things about me that I think I like better, even. There are things in my life that I know with certainty would not be here if Gabriel were instead.
And yet. . . for an hour more with him. . .
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Gabriel, who had large feet and a vibrant personality, and his parents loved him very much.
Maybe, as fairy tales go, it's not so bad.