It was a sunny Saturday in September of 2007. We were home from our first three-week inpatient stay at Seattle Children’s, trying to get used to the fact that overnight our lives had totally changed – that our son had cancer. Still trying to mentally grasp the notion that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a very long time – that Ben would basically be confined to our house when he was not at the hospital. Our families and extended family of in-laws showed up that afternoon to put up this play set in our backyard for Ben. The joy he experienced in seeing it was awesome.
Since then it has been well used and well loved. The problem we’d been having as of late though is that Ryan is 6 ½, very strong and has no physical fear (see medical records for stitches and a concussion) Therefore, this sweet structure had been turned into something that could be used for all kinds of “interesting choices”. Some of these included, but were not limited to: swinging as high as you can in order to catapult yourself off, playing some version of dodge ball while hanging out of the window, or simply jumping off the top of it, because, well…“Why not?” I do ponder in these moments the male brain and the small chip that seems to be missing.
Clearly it had outgrown its initial purpose. A few weeks ago after telling Ryan to please get off of the bar that holds the swings, I watched him look at me, leap, and land in a fetal position on the grass. Tears ensued and I assumed we were headed to Children’s with a broken pelvis. Fortunately he was fine. However it confirmed that it was indeed time for it to go and probably the sooner the better.
I thought I was fine with it – excited even about our new backyard plans – until it actually came time for the playhouse to be removed. And then I panicked. I wanted it stay. I wanted it to look the same as when Ben was here. Because if it looks the same, it means he was just here right? He is not a figment of my imagination. I didn’t make up his existence. He lived and breathed at our house. He played in this playhouse. And even though it was going to a good home, it was Ben’s. Therefore I immediately wanted to bind myself to it like Joan of Arc.
It’s just a big piece of plastic I tried to tell myself. It isn’t Ben. It wasn’t this. Yet at the same time, it represented so much – our life with him, the way our family surrounded us with every kind of generosity and where time stopped. Removing it made me feel like we were moving on – farther and farther away from him. But clearly by the intensity of my emotional reaction we are never going to “move on”. We are moving forward. There is a difference.
And now we can hopefully move forward with all of Ryan’s limbs.