So, we finally closed on our house in Connecticut Thursday afternoon. Much of my anxiety during my visit to Ridgefield a few weeks ago was related to the memories and sudden rupture of our old life and survival decision to move out of state. There are so many physical reminders in Ridgefield that I found comforting during my visit. I drove by our old house, just to glance. There was a tiny basketball goal in the driveway. That was supposed to have been Ben's. One of the cutest moments of his life...we'd walked outside in the front yard and our dog was running around. Ben wasn't quite used to the dog's herding antics, as she would run toward him, then turn and run the other direction. Each time she got within a few feet of him, he would crouch down, put his head down, arms around his legs and let out a laughing squeal. That happened a few feet from the basketball goal that now stood in the driveway, foreign yet oddly comforting.
Another aspect of my emotional response to the visit involved the pending sale of our house - Ben's home. My rational mind knows that no part of Ben is left in the physical parts of our old life. Ben is energy and spirit and love...and he's around us all of the time. I often feel like he is right in front, above, below, beside, inside, surrounding me....if I could just try hard enough, I could reach him and feel his essence again. But, he's just not on this plane of existence anymore. And, the physical memories...they are. It is hard to let go, even a year later. The moment our house closed, the ability to go back and relive the memories, walk the wooden floors where he toddled around, run my fingers along the door against which he sat letting his oldest sister feed him yogurt the weekend before he passed...is gone.
The corner of our living room where we placed our Christmas tree, took family pictures for our Christmas cards...Ben being kissed on both sides by his sisters, dimples gleaming.
The kitchen table where he sat each night eating dinner with us, where he said "Mama" for the first time the Saturday before he passed, asking me to place him in his seat to eat lunch.
The sunroom where he threw and chased balls, any kind of ball, for hours on end, laughing and screaming with joy.
Our bed, where we laid him each morning and night to change diapers, dry him after baths, where we blew raspberries on his stomach eliciting belly laughs over and over. The rocking chair where we lulled him to sleep each night, where I sat breastfeeding him, his eyes slowly closing into a dream world, with his hand gently remaining on my chest. I smell him as I write this, feel his skin.
....we left it untouched for months. The morning after his passing, when the police let me back inside our house, my parents walked me through. I found his alligator pajamas crumpled up on the bed, where Kyle had changed him the morning before. I had stayed strong up to that point, but the physicalness of it all made it unbearable. I held them up to my face and inhaled his smell. "I want to keep his smell! What do I do?!! HELP ME! He's dead!" I screamed at my mom. I screamed and screamed. Later, I placed his pajamas, stuffed animal and shoes in his crib, left his toys untouched.
But, eventually I was forced to organize the nursery to show the house, then eventually pack it all up to move. Before doing so, I took snapshots of every angle of his room...to capture it in time. I sobbed and hit the wall, sliding down to sit on the floor in front of his changing table. I knew it was only physical, but it was all I had left. Memories.... Due to my new OCD response to our trauma, I decluttered and threw out most of the unnecessary items in our basement and house (two huge dumpsters full) before moving. But, I kept all of Ben's clothes and toys. They are in the storage room in our Colorado basement labelled "Ben toys," "Ben clothes," "Ben memories."
Moving through the healing process is cathartic and much needed...we have come so far since those initial days. It is good to let go of our old house, but I can't say it was easy. I know he is closer than ever, liberated from the physical...but still....
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On a much happier note -- I have to admit that part of our healing has involved allowing the necessary sadness and anxiety to flow over us like waves but to try to recover and move on to happy times as well. I am excited to announce I am officially "Colorado country" now! I had my first country line dancing experience on a fun Ladies Night Out on Thursday (thanks Kyle for watching the girls!)...now I just need to buy some cow girl boots and hat and I'm all set. In all seriousness though, I woke up Friday morning asking Kyle if we could take dance lessons as our new date night adventure. I think he's game!
Have a good weekend everyone....