Friday, January 3, 2014
Ages and Stages
I told him he'd appreciate it later, much later; lucky Tim looks about a decade younger than he is. Stinks for me. But being small and looking young rankled Jack. In his (obligatory) letters home from summer camp in 5th and 6th grade, he lamented that there were a few boys in other cabins who made fun of him. They would call out insults as Jack and his buddies walked around camp, "What are you doing with them? You look like you should be in the 2nd grade cabin!"
I know it sounds weird, but it really bothers me that Jack is "stuck" as a 12 year old in so many hearts and minds, not just because of the obvious sadness that he's not able to be alive and well with us right now, but also because I hate that he didn't get to have the growth spurt that he wanted that so badly. I wonder if he'd be embarrassed that he's remembered as a boy, not a teenager or a young man. Souls are souls are souls, and even from the first days of mothering Jack and getting to know him, his soul struck me as wise and mature, as if he'd known me for 1000 years. But in our memory, Jack is 12, and always will be.
All around me are markers of what his life could/should be like now because I see teenage boys all the time, but the truth is, we don't really know what Jack would interested in at this point. I mean, it's pretty obvious that he would have liked Minecraft or an iphone and PlayStation 4 if he'd lived long enough to experience them. But what would he be involved in in high school? Debate? Would he be running cross country? What would be his hardest class? Would he be driving us crazy? Would he have joined the youth choir at church, even though his singing was a joyful noise more than anything else? Would he have a girlfriend? How many of our interests and loves at age 12 can define us for the rest of our lives?
We spent time at my sister's house for New Year's Eve. Jack's favorite cousin, just 9 months older than Jack, had gotten his learner's permit 3 days earlier. We sat in my sister's little car as he carefully chauffeured us around the neighborhood. We praised him for how long he stopped at the stop sign and how he smoothly pulled in and out of the garage. It was wonderful to share this moment with our nephew, and we are so proud of him.
But oh, the absence and lack. It was painfully obvious that he was pulling ahead of Jack once again. As he must. We discussed grown-up movies and told slightly off color stories, that would have been unthinkable just 2 1/2 years ago, but that made my nephew grin. We included him more in our adult circle than ever before. It was time. But it hurt.
And that's really what Christmas and New Year's were like. Honoring the past AND moving ahead in necessary ways. Embracing traditions like Christmas Eve lunch at Chevy's, the candlelight service at church, and watching It's a Wonderful Life together on the couch. The poem scavenger hunt to find that one last gift hidden somewhere in the house.
There is stability in knowing that I'll cry every time I hear: "To George Bailey, the richest man in town!"
But there were new parts, too, like giving Margaret the chance to connect more with friends, and our family socializing more with friends, some of whom knew Jack well, and others who didn't know him at all.
Invariably, each time we had people over to the "new" house over the holidays, someone would pull me aside and say, "I can really sense Jack's presence here."
And it was true.
Not necessarily 12 year old Jack. Or almost 15 year old Jack. Just Jack.