I was rushing from work, clomping black oxfords down the sidewalk towards the subway. The day was not unlike the rest of my week where all hell had broken loose, where casual Friday was anything but casual. I scurried down the escalator into the passage under the street, through the turnstiles and another escalator to the platform. It was only a few minutes after five, I might still get a seat on the train. I whipped out my trusty companion—the company BlackBerry—to kill the 5 ½ minute ride to the train station. I thumbed through my calendar and at the top of May 25 was a reminder—Monthly Home Visit from Social Worker. For a few hours I had forgotten about him.
Earlier in the day two co-workers sat down in my office for an impromptu meeting to resolve the crisis of the moment. While I looked something up on my computer, they became distracted by the photo sitting on my desk of the boys. As they fawned over the photos, I held my breath for a moment hoping like hell that they would not ask about him—hoping that I wouldn’t have to tell them that he is gone.
These are the reminders.
Yesterday two more of them crossed my path. While shuttling between meetings, I was making a call on my phone and noticed that there was a new voicemail. It was Darrow and the urgency in his voice caught me off guard. I stopped to listen and quickly realized that it was his attempt to locate me on the day of our foster son’s departure three weeks earlier. Social Services had left messages urging us to deliver him to his parents by 4PM, but that day Darrow was having trouble reaching me. He was unable to hide the panic in his voice—the fear that T was leaving and the possibility that I might not make it home in time to say goodbye.
Then there was the unexpected request from one of his little buddies at day care. As I descended the stairs to pick-up Lucas, he was there full of excitement jumping up and down—I have a new yellow Porsche! I told him that maybe we would come over to his house to see it this weekend. He responded, “And T can come too?” It seemed like a small request, but it became so big in that moment. It was a reminder, that the kids in his day care, they miss him too.
There will always be the reminders—it is inevitable.
There were many days that our foster son would come home with artwork. Sometimes it was just a white piece of paper with crayon scribbles. I never could bring myself to toss any of them and they piled up on the kitchen counter. I thought that some day they would be like gold, the last bits of my connection to him. The other day I cleaned off the counter but didn’t touch the stack of papers. When I turned away I realized that some of them were there all the time, plastered to the wall staring me in the face.
On Saturday, I maneuvered through the tables of a café with the squirmy boy in my arms. It was a comforting and familiar place for us. I was lugging a high chair and dropped it in front of a table. As I lowered Lucas into the chair and buckled him up, I immediately remembered the table. It was our table–the one we always seemed to sit at with him. It is the site of some of my favorite pictures. It just so happened to be one of the few tables that was open that day. For a moment, I thought of moving before Darrow arrived with the food, but I hesitated. How would we ever get through this, if I made decisions about how I lived my life from moment to moment based upon his memories. I refused to run away from him and planted myself in the chair.
And sometimes the reminders are not so bad.
Last week one of our dear friends dropped off her son at our house for a few hours. He watched Cars; he played with trains and trucks; he ate pizza. It felt eerily familiar—a teeter-tottering toddler and four year-old inhabiting the playroom. It made me remember what my life was like before April 29, 2011. There was something comforting about his presence. I have to remember that the reminders will not always cause my heart to race. Sometime, hopefully many times it will cause me to smile and even laugh about his little life with us.