Everyone tells me that the first time we hit events without him will be hard. I say it to my own patients, when they have suffered losses. It's true. Mother's day this year will suck. His birthday is in July, not so much looking forward to that either. Those I anticipate, though, I ready myself for.
The tough ones are the unexpected ones. The first trip to the grocery store after he passed was almost physically painful. God, we went through so many foods in the last 18 months. Ones he liked, ones he hated...the remains of all the things that he thought sounded good that turned out not to after we bought a case linger in the pantry.
Today was my first kids' first soccer game of the season. Henry practically grew up on the soccer field sidelines. I nursed him there when he was an infant. He all but learned to walk by putting balls in the goal while the kids were practicing on the other side. He was always on me, playing, asking for food, running on to the field.
But today he wasn't.
Last fall he joined the U-6 soccer team, wearing the number "3" proudly on his jersey. He was bald as a cueball. He was thin and frail, his balance poor enough that running on a choppy field with a bunch of 5 year olds was treacherous. He even still had his Hickman in. His first touch on the ball, first game of the season was an "assist": he kicked off, the next kid booted it into the goal. I wouldn't say that he enjoyed soccer (indeed, his relapse overtook him as the season progessed and he was unable to finish) but he clearly understood that soccer was what kids in our house did when they got big enough, and he was excited to have arrived.
He used to give the girls advice. "See, if you just run around behind the rest of the other kids you won't get pushed over." He said this in all seriousness.
Today, there was a sea of blue, red, green, white tshirts of all of the current U-6 teams, each and every one of them wearing the number "3". Our local YMCA did it to honor Henry, and they plan to retire the number officially after this season for the U-6 league. To say that we are touched is a bit of an understatement.
I don't know why I didn't expect today to be hard. An empty lap at soccer, dozens of kids his age, all wearing something to honor him...it's not rocket science that my emotions would be high. By the end of the game I was feeling somewhat settled, less raw. Hopefully next week will be easier, but my empty lap will still be empty.