Late last year, I spoke to a class of high school students locally. The teacher said she had been a friend of Charles’s which shocked me. How did she get to be the teacher? Wasn’t she too young? I couldn’t speak for a few seconds. The teacher even shared old pictures I had not seen.
You see I have Charles frozen at age 20.
All those who went to school with him are kind of frozen in my mind, too. I do see his friends, I get that they’ve graduated from college, some have married and his best friend had a baby (named Aubrey, after Charles, I might add). But there is a group of them in my mind who are still there frozen in place.
In my mind, Charles looks like he did at age 20. It’s conceivable he wouldn’t have aged a ton from 20 to 28. But what will it be like when he turns 40 in heaven? Will I picture him as older? Or will I still picture him at age 20 when he left us? Maybe I would try “aging booth” or some other app to see what he would look like? I don’t think I want to do that yet.
What is already kind of odd is looking at how much younger I look in pictures with him.
What would it be like to not ever get old?
That was a stupid question because it would be like being dead. I can hear Charles chuckling at that one. “Good one Mom! You actually made me laugh.”
At one point will his hairstyle look like something from the past? Or his clothing?
I still feel flat and lifeless and sometimes forgetful or weepy in the days leading up to his birthday. Everything takes longer to sort out and grief brain returns. Not like it used to be. Early on the birthday was so unbearable. It’s not like that now. And it’s hard to explain what it’s like other than I’m scatterbrained but also immersing myself in the memories.
Charles would still be Charles, though. And that means he’d be a dreamer no matter how much reality was slapping him in the face. That was definitely part of his charm and a lot like my dad was.
I suspect Charles would never grow out of wanting a birthday cake or a pinata, that he’d always want a big party for his big day. Nobody loved a birthday celebration like Charles–the people taking precedence. When it came to my younger child, small was not the kind of party he was ever interested in.
I regret having made fun of him one year because he drove me so crazy for so many months planning his birthday and telling me what I needed to make, buy or do for 5 months prior to the day. Ok, so I didn’t make fun of him as much as I pointed out it in an impatient way that it was still 5 months away and couldn’t he just let it rest. The look on his face made me regret it ever came out of my mouth. What’s wrong with nursing a fantasy island birthday for months? All I needed to do was say, “Yeah sure,” and add color to the craziness by suggesting we bring in a giraffe or cheetah. Or talk about adding gold coins to the pinata.
Isn’t it funny that what drove me the most crazy about Charles is one of those memories I treasure the most now?