Yesterday Ben would have been (or is?) eight.
Birthdays and Anniversaries always pose a problem for bereaved parents. What do you do? Do nothing…and it feels dishonoring of your child. Do something…and it feels painfully awkward. We have done both – in the now five birthdays we have spent without him – and believe me, either way is just hard.
I can’t imagine what Ben would be like at eight. I cannot visualize him having grown. I don’t know what he would be interested in. His laughter, his voice, his smell are all fuzzy to me now. His birth seems like another lifetime. I watch and listen to mothers, sometimes decades later, telling their children’s birth stories with such clarity. I remember Ben’s now with some version of insanity. I wonder did that really happen? Did my water really break at the Wallingford QFC? On one hand I know it did (I have the scar to prove it) – but there is a lot of mental gymnastics involved in the remembering, for you are simultaneously trying to remember everything.
But what we do recall easily is how much Ben loved his family. He was very lucky to have his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents surrounding him during his short life and illness. And so, with Ryan’s perhaps self-serving, but age appropriate input, we gathered many of the cousins together for the afternoon. We even went as far as to book a time at a bouncy house space. When I made the reservation the woman on the phone asked me, “What is the name of the Birthday child?” Pause. Breath. Eyes sting. “Well…it’s more of just a family gathering,” I said. “So I should just reserve it for the Towne family?” she asks. Yes. For our remaining family.
If it makes our family uncomfortable, they do a good job of putting it aside. It is a lot to ask to come to a “party” for someone who is dead. But the truth is he is still alive in our hearts – every minute, every day. And we miss him acutely – especially on his Birthday. So we did our best. Ryan wanted goodie bags to be given out, but that is where I had to draw the line. I can hardly pull that stuff off for our living child.
A quiet dinner with my sister and Andy and a toast ended our day – “Happy” Birthday Ben.