Driving in our truck down the familiar route home, the mirror down so we could have our never-ending chats back-and-forth:
“I don’t remember Daddy.”
Heart stopping, panic paralyzing my body, I swerve, so I could catch a glimpse of his face in the mirror, I pull the wheel back over into the correct lane, “What?”
Shakes his head, makes eye contact with me in the mirror.
“What do you mean? Of course you remember Daddy.”
“No I don’t.”
Quick to not put my own beliefs on him, trying to block the tears welling up in my eyes, I throw the mirror up to avoid the eye contact I was originally soliciting, swallow the lump in my throat, and ask again: “What do you mean you don’t remember Daddy, honey? We talk about him all the time.”
“I know, but I don’t remember him. And I ask you all the time when we get to see him again, it’s been a REALLY long time, Mommy.”
In that very moment, sheer panic took over my soul. My mind was racing a million thoughts:
Did we not talk about him enough? Have I not showed him enough home videos? There’s never a day we don’t talk about something Daddy did, his name is spoken every single day. This cannot be real.
I dropped the conversation, because he didn’t push it. But the lingering panic still took over my body.
What did I do wrong? We have talked about him non-stop, every day, for the past four and a half years. I am intentional, I make sure he knows every single memory, no matter how small, about his Dad. Where could I have been better?
Three days later, this morning at 5:30 a.m. the answer hit me–I didn’t do it wrong. Time did this. He was only fourteen months old when his Daddy passed. Despite there being a connection between the two of them, things that have happened, that I KNOW was Joe coming to see a sweet innocent baby to tell him things, that otherwise he could have never known–time did this, time has taken over. I truly believe babies have an innocence that this world eventually takes from them. They have not been trained to only believe what they can see, I believe they are the closest form to Heaven, as we can get on this Earth. But he is older, and his sweet, little brain is maturing and reason is taking over. And he doesn’t understand how we can’t just call Daddy, or why Daddy can’t come home today, or… ever.
He has been alive without his Daddy far longer, than when his Daddy was alive on Earth with him. I know in my heart, he remembers what he remembers because I refuse to let his Daddy’s name be mute. I know that as time does pass, that your brain lets go of memories. I know this, and yet the tears falling down my face for the past three days, seemingly continue to destroy my soul.
I would have given everything in this world to have his Daddy watching him grow into the amazing kid he is today. I would give anything to give him the answer my son wants, that we get to see Daddy today, when he walks through the doors and comes home. But instead, I manage to choke out, “Soon,” even though it won’t be soon enough for him–or me.
Does reality of truth hurts? Yeah. It hurts like a level of pain I have never before felt in my life. I, somewhere, deep down, knew this day would come. I knew that maturity of the brain would bring on a whole different level of questions, grief, and understanding. Holy cow, though, I never knew the innocence of those words from that sweet boy, could cut me so deep.
So today, I will ask for an extra sign, or two, from the Heavens, to know I am doing grief right with this boy, and a reminder that my husband is still with us every single moment of every day.
I don’t have the answers–I am just trying to figure this out as we go.
Keep going in grief. It’s so worth it.
Smith is a mom, widow, education administrator, colon cancer advocate, blogger, and a best-selling author of her book, “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir. You can purchase your copy HERE.