Today my boy would be 24 years old. What would he look like? How would he have changed or not changed?
He’ll never get wrinkles, have arthritis, worry about getting a cancer diagnosis. He’ll never graduate from college, get married or have my grandchildren.
Instead, he is forever frozen at the age of 20 in pictures and memories. Forever young. Forever tragic due to his addiction to heroin and death by suicide. Charles was supposed to be famous by now. He was supposed to be making me laugh.
I crack morbid jokes sometimes which make me laugh more knowing he’d think they were hilarious. I don’t feel guilty for laughing because he always loved to make me laugh.
Meanwhile I count the birthdays celebrating his life with friends and family. I move him forward in age, and carry him with me through summer, fall, spring and the holidays. I dream about him and sometimes wake up with a headache from clenching my jaw. Other times I wake up wishing I could fall back asleep because that’s where he was alive.
This is the first year I’ve not broken out in welts and itchy rashes during the birthday month. I’ve not lost any hair as I have in the past. The grief has been quiet and persistent at times but softer and less jagged. I greet it and meet it allowing it to wash over me and connect me to his memory.
After almost four years, my heart has accepted the loss, I’ve figured out how to move forward and recognized ways to keep his memory alive. The grief no longer feels like I’m lying on a bed of broken glass stark naked.
Happy twenty fourth birthday Charles. I love you.