It's been eight months since E passed away, and Tim and T and I are emerging from a fog of grief. We won't ever be the same without E, but we are no longer bumbling around like zombies divorced from our own lives.
T lives at home now and has since the day we got the news. He finished his nurse assistant training this winter and started working, caring for older people, which has been his dream since high school. He loves wearing his scrubs, and takes his obligations to his patients very seriously. He has grown up so much, we often feel like we are living with a friend, whose wisdom and humor have both reached adult proportions. I always told him that someday, when he was no longer in school, he'd look around and find himself surrounded by adults, and he would no longer feel like the unfortunate "foster kid." That day has finally come. He can mostly be trusted to make sound decisions on his own behalf, and isn't that the ultimate goal?
It's great having him at home. I've tried to avoid leaning on him in my grief and it's important to me that he not feel that the tragedy of losing E has made us fearful and over-protective of him in a way that would burden him. Nevertheless, getting through these last several months was difficult for all three of us, with intermittent period of pain, confusion, forgetting, ruminating, and alienation from other people, and I can't really imagine going through that without him close at hand.
Frankly, it's been a very lonely time, the loneliest I've ever experienced. Losing a child is excruciating, and losing an older child who is yours through foster care is doubly alienating because many people have a poor understanding of that sort of parenting to begin with so they aren't sure how to regard you. I sometimes wonder if people thought we were foolish, to open our hearts to a kid like E, and felt we had somehow set ourselves up for tragedy. The fact was, he was T's brother, how could we deny that he was also our family? Anyway, it would require a cold heart indeed to refuse to respond to a kid like E. and fate just happened to put us within his reach, too late to prevent his pain, but just in time to love him as deeply and instinctively as any parent loves a child.
Friends wanted to be there, but after the initial expressions of sympathy, they didn't know what to say and so stayed silent. For months, nobody came over and nobody invited us anywhere. After years of entanglement with the social service system to try to support E's needs, everything in our world went quiet, as if all lines had been severed. At work, my boss stopped coming to me with assignments until I was able to convince him that I am just fine, unaltered. Even my own parents declined to show up for us when E died, saying they hadn't understood how close our bond was. They didn't attend the funeral and spent the subsequent holidays with my brother's family without inviting us to join them. Through all of this, Tim and T and I relied on each other, reflecting one another's sadness and sharing the daily discipline of just getting by.
I can't really write much more about losing E. Any attempt to capture feelings in words seems to do his memory a disservice. He's still there in nearly ever moment. Every Sunday afternoon, I feel his absence around the time we used to have dinner and say our prayers. On Mother's Day it hardly seemed like a year since he rushed into my bedroom last spring to hand me a carefully-chosen card that said simply "I love you with all my heart." Our weekends seem long after two years of carefully supervising him, visiting him when he was locked up, and arranging our home life to accommodate his needs when he was free to be with us.
I miss his astounding honesty, and his gentleness, and his trust. I will always miss him, and Tim may miss him even more, because they were each other's best friend. E was like someone from a dream, a personality loosely tethered to the world, saddled with more misfortune than one person can bear, and yet he was so loving and lovable. Our time with him always felt as if the clock had stopped and the needle had been lifted from the turntable and we had stepped into a private dimension. We can't go there anymore without him, but I'll never lose my sensation of that special extra dimension that existed solely through the magic of him.
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