It's April and that means our garage, living room and dining room table have all begun to be buried with odds and ends that, at some point, will hopefully transform into Ethan's birthday party decorations. As soon as April rolled in, I've found myself doing the "this time last year" comparison a little too much. We're sort of at the cusp of that point in time where life went from awesome to terrifying to tragic and unrecognizable. Somehow focusing on Ethan's birthday party helps with the mood around here. At least mine. My husband remains sweet and patient as we're forced to eat dinner around Ethan's Lego table because the spray paint cans and homemade cake stands and other odds and ends take up our entire dining room table at this point.
Ethan has come to share my enthusiasm towards party planning or, at the very least, his own birthday plans. He's so concerned with the little details and the guest list and the cake and the decorations and everything else that we've pinned and admired and thought up and attempted to recreate. I see you, "parents throw these parties for themselves" grumps, and I'm laughing back at you now.
Anyway, the time is ticking on. I'm caught between the now and the this time last year a lot. Sometimes grief makes it impossible to stop comparing, even when it's past midnight and you just want to fall asleep. This time last year, we were painting her nursery.
To survive the long afternoons and the already unbearable heat, we have joined our city's pools. Ethan could spend hours in the water and managed to befriend a little girl who is a couple of years older than he is. She asked him, innocently enough, if he had any brothers or sisters. "No. Just cats," he explained before asking for her help in perfecting his backfloat. These are the exchanges that catch me off guard and bring reality to the fantasy world that I like to create in my mind. In actuality, Ethan had no concept of pregnancy or birth or death or anything that happened and so, as far as he knows, it's just him. Just him and I during these long days, these amazing days, these hard days. Just him and I.
I may or may not have pinned twenty additional projects to Ethan's fourth birthday party board that night as a result, though.
These days feel somewhat smooth and rehearsed and yet also like each hour is part of some adjustment period. These days are the same and yet so vastly different from anything I imagined. Sometimes all I can do is look up at the face behind those little hands meticulously selecting the best postage stamps for his birthday party invitations and know that it is his heart keeping mine beating, his heart keeping mine whole.