missing pieces

 Joey has been gone for 13 years, and there are already details about him and his life and death that I cannot remember. 

I couldn't remember what we buried him in. Not a suit. A green shirt? Khaki pants? Hubby says sweatpants and no shoes due his bloated body. Remember, no one would see the bottom half of him anyway. 

For his recent crapiversary, I couldn't remember what his favorite desert was. I wanted to serve his favorite and I couldn't think of what it was. I knew that he had a strawberry milkshake the day before he died. In fact, I distinctly remember holding him and seeing a crusted line of milkshake down the front of his shirt. 

But I can't remember what that shirt looked like. The shirt he died in. Because I've never seen it again.

My mom reminded me that Joey loved orange sherbet ice cream -oh yes - and Hubby reminded me that he loved deserts in general. 

Maybe that's why I couldn't pick just one. 

I do remember how he loved fruit - especially peaches and pineapples - and how his Papa used to call him "Pineapple Joey."

I feel like my memory of Joey and his short life is like this garden rock he once made:

It's full of missing pieces where memories should be. Gone are the shiny gems that once punctuated his brief life. Lost in a sea that perpetually drifts by. A life that infinitely continues without him. 

Sometimes I'm struck by the fact that I haven't thought of him lately. I haven't thought about him enough. Aren't I still supposed to be thinking of him all time? 

Or am I supposed to "be over it" by now? 

That's what some people think. It's been over a decade! Get over it!

How can you ever be over someone you once carried inside you, nursed at your breast, held in your arms, giggled with, hoped for, dreamt about, made memories with?

Even if you can't remember some of those memories. 

When I tell myself that I haven't been thinking about him enough, I realize that I don't have to be actively thinking about him and concentrating on memories to be thinking of him. 

I do, in fact, think about him every day. 

But thinking about him has become like breathing - I hardly notice that I'm doing it. At this point, it is an involuntary reflex. 

Passing his photo hanging on the wall. Breathe in . . .

Seeing an interesting rock on the ground. Breathe out . . .

Noticing the time on the clock is 4:44. Breathe in . . .

Something mischievous and unexplained happens. Catch my breath, laugh, breathe out . . .

Some of those missing pieces are lost, gone forever to my peri-menopausal mind. But so are some memories of his brothers when they were little and of our family during the crazy, chaotic times. 

Found only when written about and reread, documented on Facebook, or snapped in a picture that shows up in memories "On this Day."

It's okay that I don't remember every little detail about his life. I remember the important things. 

Like how his laugh sounded and his eyes squinted when he smiled. 

How he loved his brothers fiercely and always wanted to be included with and include them. 

His tight hugs that made you never want to let go. 

How he would stick his tongue out to the side if he was really concentrating on something - an art project, a block tower, a Christmas list. 

And so many other details I hold in my heart. 

I keep them there so they can be like air to me. Breathing them in and out to sustain me. 

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