Yesterday, Jodi and I delivered a suitcase full of Caemon’s clothes to one of his nurse practitioners who is Tanzania-bound. Soon, we will have photos of beautiful little ones running around in his t-shirts and jeans, and it will feel good, right, comforting. It was a quick hand-off, so there was little time to really feel the enormity of what we were doing, but it weighed heavy on me throughout the day–in part because I couldn’t believe I just gave all his clothes away and in part because I knew there was more to come.
On the way home from San Francisco, we stopped at our old house to give our landlord our keys and take a final walk through our old place. Jodi and I have been in the process of moving for the past few weeks, and then last weekend, we finally had our big moving day. The last few days have been spent cleaning and finishing up at the old house as we relive memories of our boy sitting at the kitchen counter eating breakfast and drinking tea, cooking in his little kitchen, dancing around in his room, reading with us in front of the fireplace, and stealing green cherry tomatoes from our garden. That home, like Caemon’s clothes, is filled with so many memories of a seemingly healthy, certainly vibrant child. Caemon loved that house and its little yard. He loved peeking into the shed which housed not only the big lawn mower and other scary (but friendly) yard tools. (In fact, during his stay at the hospital, when we talked about going home, he talked about going to see Leaf Blower.) He loved running down the hall and the sound his feet made on the wood floors. He loved standing on his stool in the bathroom to look in the mirror and play with water. He loved locking me in my closet, shutting the door on me when I was in the garage doing laundry, locking us out when we went out the sliding door to the yard. Yes, Caemon had a naughty streak as so many children do, and it was wonderful and hilarious and perfectly suited to this beautiful family home of ours. We never intended for Caemon to live his whole life there. We wanted to buy a house in the country by the time he was five to give us all room to run and breathe and feel free, but Caemon loved our house.
Our move had been nothing short of excruciating. There was the pain of sorting through Caemon’s, things, yes, but there was also so much in packing up the life of our little family. Even packing up jars or books or tools proved painful, and knowing that we would soon not see Caemon everywhere was difficult to anticipate. Even thinking about our new home where there would be no reminders of our son was too much to bear at times.
But the truth remains that in order to start the healing process, we had to move somewhere where a fresh start might be possible, and what felt really awful at the time is that we didn’t need to consider a child at all in the process. The place where we have moved has no yard for little boys to run around. It has three sets of stairs, a hazard we would have wanted to avoid with a little one. Still, I can’t help but imagine him here exploring all the closets, checking out the cabinets, marveling at the little nook under the entryway stairs. When we moved in, somehow, an errant pair of his socks landed in that very space under those stairs, and I left it there for several days because that’s precisely the sort of thing he would have put there: socks, books, blankets, toys. It would have been his space. In fact, I think he would have liked a lot of the spaces here. Of course he would have; it’s our home now. So long as we were all together, he loved wherever we were. Even in his death, I can’t help but consider how Caemon would have liked this place, and that too has made this move so challenging.
Closing this chapter is fraught with so many feelings. There is the sadness of letting our home go and parting with a place that harbors so many beautiful memories for our family, yet there is also relief in leaving that house. The memories it harbored were beautiful, but many of them carried with them so much weight. The air there felt thick after Caemon died, and the heft of it all was suffocating. In this new place, there is no door to a boy’s room that I have to avoid. There isn’t a chair at the counter where I’d rather others not sit. There are little reminders of Caemon all over this new place, but they aren’t the same. Sometimes I go a couple of hours without thinking about him, and it’s strange, sometimes terrifying, but it’s also a necessary respite from the agony of missing him.
Yesterday before we left the old house, Jodi and I crunched through the rocks in front of our house one last time for Caemon. we admired the beautiful orange flowers of the ice plants Caemon picked out and helped me plant last spring. Then we held hands, tears streaming down our faces as we took one last glimpse of the house where our boy was once well, and we drove away, toward what I do not know.
I don’t know what our new life is going to look like here. Right now, it’s hard to see beyond the stacks of boxes and difficult to imagine what we’ll do with all of his things that we saved. I can say it feels better though. I like waking up here knowing that if I need to, I can avoid most of the triggers that send me spiraling downward. If nothing else, this place feels easier and lighter, and while it can’t take away the pain, it’s not contributing to I either. I appreciate that.
And also, much to my chagrin (and probably Caemon’s delight) I learned today that leaf blower lives here too.