I have been looking for a scrawny, brown boy with long curly hair.  It is 2016 and I know he still has dimples, even as a teenager.  I imagine him with glasses, carrying a book, standing at a bus stop surrounded by a crew of friends.  I know that he will never be wanting for friendship.  He is the most social, the most likeable little boy ever. 

This is the reason we can never leave this place.  If we remain in this city, there is at least the opportunity—the hope that someday I will get that small glimpse of him—even if it is just that once in a life time—paths crossing—coincidental happenstance on the street.  But I don’t hold onto hope that what once was will ever be again. 

He was the fourth of our little family.  His absence has thrown us off.  I turned to his door to check on him last night and before I put my hand to the door knob I remembered and stopped myself.  Then I went to bed.  We are trying to be three but the impression of the fourth is too deep on this house.  There are reminders, ghosts, memories, things of his just lying around. 

We keep clinging to each other, spending as much time together as a family as possible.  We are about to embark on another journey together—one of five short vacations we’ve planned for the summer.  And while it’s freeing to be together in new places, it is hard to do so, knowing what could have been, how he could have been with us, how our family could have gone on the way it had, facing our challenges together, growing closer, loving life.  I’ve begun to wonder what will help us not feel like something is always missing. 

He is older now, just by a month or two, but that’s a life-time in the development of a four-year old.  I know that by now his vocabulary has expanded.  His play has become more complex.  His reasoning has advanced.  He is getting taller, finally.  His behavior is less mimicked from other kids and more a function of who he is becoming.  He is able to fly down the sidewalk on his scooter and can come to a dead-stop without falling.  He is learning to read.

I thought we were a family of four.  I had a hard time imagining how that would ever change.  And now it sometimes feels like we are the remnants of a family that was.  One of us is sad, one of us is lost and the third just needs his sippy cup.  We muddle during the hard times—the weekends—where our remains seem to be more apparent.  It is difficult to stitch us back together with such a big tear in the fabric.  The remains will not always be.  Someday they will form a new family of three.  We are trying and doing the right things, it just takes time.  There has not been enough time yet.