Today is Garrett’s 4th birthday.
In the past few weeks, I’ve dreaded this day. I’ve wondered if I should take it off from work so I could be alone. If I should plan something special, like dinner and a cake and ice cream, or if I should just pretend it’s any other day. I wondered if I should post anything on Facebook, or here on the blog, and if so, what should I say? What can I say? There’s really not much to say on a day like today, a day when a little kid should be opening presents and eating cake but he’s not.
The worst thing about today, for me, is not (just) that it’s Garrett’s birthday and that he’s not here. It’s that enough time has passed that the kid that I miss is no longer the kid that is missing.
When Garrett died, he was two years, four months, and 28 days old. I always round it up to two and a half, but he wasn’t even quite there yet. I suppose child development experts would call his age/stage “preschooler,” but to me he was still very much my baby. He still occasionally woke up in the middle of the night and needed his mommy. He still took a pacifier at nap time and bed time. He was still in diapers. Yes, he was walking and talking and turning into the coolest little kid, and every single day was so much fun for me and his dad because he was having so much fun learning and growing up, but… he was still so little.
So that’s who I miss – that little guy. I’ll tell you a secret: when Caitlin was very small, I wanted to hurry her right through the newborn and infant stage toward toddler, because I missed Garrett so much. I missed his size and shape. And now Caitlin weighs about the same as Garrett did when he died (because he was a skinny little guy!) and she’s starting to get that “little kid” look to her. She is her own person, and I appreciate her as Caitlin, not as “Garrett’s replacement” – believe me, no one could replace him, and I have never expected her to! But it’s tremendously comforting to me, in a way, to have a toddler again.
But I know that if Garrett was here, he wouldn’t be a toddler any more. He’d be a big kid. He’d seem even bigger compared to his sister. I look at my nephew, who turned four in April, and my neighbor’s little boy, whose birthday was back in October, and I wonder what sorts of things that they do would Garrett be doing right now? Would he be riding a bike? Learning to swim? Saying his ABCs? Singing songs he heard on the radio? Collecting fireflies on summer nights? Telling me jokes? Playing pranks?
Would he ask for a special kind of cake for his birthday? Would he like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… or Batman… or Thomas the Train… or some other cartoon I’ve never even heard of? What kinds of things would he want to talk about when his Nana or Auntie called on FaceTime? What presents would he ask for? What size clothes would he be wearing?
These are things I’ll never know.
So that’s what hurts, right now, today… that I have no idea what I’m missing. I have no idea who my boy would be at four years old. I only know who he was at (not quite) two and a half.
Eating leftover birthday cake, July 2012.
Last year on this day, I told the very dramatic, very funny, and only slightly embarrassing story of Garrett’s birth. I highly recommend reading it as a chaser to this downer of a post.