After staying a few extra days while everyone else went home over the weekend, the Mother-In-Law departed yesterday afternoon, which means that for the first time since Little Quinn died, our little family is alone again. Now, I suspect, comes the really hard part, because now we have to do our own heavy lifting to get our lives back on track again. Trouble is, we don't know what track that is.
That's the weird thing about death. The automatic instinct is to kind of go back to the way things were before this person came along, and in Little Quinn's case, that's not totally out of the question, since it was just fifteen months ago and I can remember fairly clearly what it was like before he was here. But that seems fake, and even a bit disrespectful to Little Quinn, doesn't it? So we're stuck trying to make space in our lives for a family member who no longer needs any space at all. On top of being a sad feeling, it's a weird feeling as well.
Since Little Quinn was born, I never spent that long a time at my writing desk, mainly because I never felt that comfortable being that far away from him in case he had a sudden breathing problem or something like that. This, coupled with the fact that my little office area was the only relatively unused bit of space in the apartment, led quickly enough to all manner of things being piled in there (hence the immense clutter that formed in that space, as pictured here and here).
At the time of Little Quinn's passing, I was working to reclaim my desk and office area. Just days before he died, his new stroller was delivered. It was a pretty slick item: its seat was detachable, and would fasten into a secondary base with hydraulic lift for home use. This, plus the wheeled IV pole to which we attached his pump, would have meant that we could finally have Little Quinn at the dinner table with us, and that I would be able to set him up in my little office area while I worked. I was looking forward to that. Alas, Little Quinn never even got to sit in his new stroller. A person from the company that delivered it was scheduled to come out and fit him for the stroller last Wednesday. Two days too late, as it turned out. Alas. (The stroller is being donated to a local home that provides equipment to people in such situations.)
I did most of my writing at that desk, really: rough drafts in longhand, and I feel better when surrounded by my books. I'm still reclaiming that area, but now, of course, Little Quinn won't be sitting in there with me. Oh well. The things we can control, and the things we can't.
The trouble with death is that we want so badly to get "back" to normal, but we can't: what we have to do is construct a new normal, which will by necessity feel wrong because that new normal won't include enough vestiges of the old normal. It's quite the conundrum. Maybe it will be easier for us since Little Quinn's "normal" was so different from everybody else's "normal", but I don't know. After the initial reaction, at Little Quinn's birth, that his cerebral palsy was going to destroy our lives, we'd recalibrated to instead see it all as our lives plus Little Quinn's cerebral palsy. Now we have to recalibrate again.
This we do, a tiny bit at a time. The apartment still seems terribly silent, and it still feels terribly odd to leave the apartment without a diaper bag on my shoulder. The Wife and I hold hands in public, which we normally weren't able to do because one of us always had two hands on the stroller. But a tiny bit at a time, we'll carve out our new lives. It starts with drinking coffee in the morning, with wearing overalls for the first time since last Monday, with cleaning up areas of the apartment long buried beneath accumulated stuff, with writing, with reading. With living.
A tiny bit at a time.