The other day I got a glimpse of a past life. Or rather, a life that could have been. Or rather, a life that never was.
After school I always grant your older brother some time on the playground. The afternoon goes a lot smoother (for the both of us), when he's allowed to run around for half an hour. Also it brings me happiness, watching them play.
We were the only ones left, save for one other mom and her twin boys. And her little girl.
She was toddling around, attempting to keep the pace with her older brothers and attempting to lose her mother just a step behind her, and she was so perfectly adorable.
"How old?" I asked after a minute.
"She's two," her mother smiled.
And it was strange to be exactly where I would have been had you lived, on this playground on this day. It's rare when that actually happens, when I get a close-up view of exactly what my life would look if you weren't gone. What I would be doing at some normal moment. Picking up my son from school and helping my little girl down the slide. Following your clumsy steps and holding my breath as you attempt the "big kid" stairs. Only this was a very different day in a very different life. Because I'm on this playground where I'd have been before, but I cannot chase you or adjust your purple stocking cap because you're not here.
It's strange to have this other view. A perfect image in my head always, of what could have been. And it changes with time, evolves and grows with me and right beside, so vivid and so known only I've never touched it. I'll never touch it and it will never be real. A memory that never really was. A dream that could never really be.
I kind of stared at them for a minute until it was time to go. I didn't break down or anything but it's still sitting with me, a week later. I don't think a lot of people in my life understand that. Most can appreciate what it's like to lose someone. To feel the sadness and the longing in such a moment without. To be grateful for what once was, paving the way for where they are now but I live in such a concurrence with the guilt. Each step is a gait I'll never know. Every smile is a million I'll never see. There is an apology upon each breath. A sense of failure as tethered and as permanent as the monkey bars you'll never climb. A guilt that will never resolve. As your mother, I can't allow it.
David Bowie died. It was the first thing I read when I woke up this morning and it was the first thing I said to your father when he did the same. I don't know why it's made me so sad. I've never met the man, but I feel like I've known him. Through his music I feel like I've known him. My favorite would have to be "The Man Who Sold The World". I used to sing it to your older brother at bedtime. Since you died it's grown on me even more.
"We passed upon the stair. We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend.
Which came as some surprise, I spoke into his eyes
'I thought you died alone. A long, long time ago.'
Oh no, not me.
I never lost control.
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world.
I laughed and shook his hand. And made my way back home.
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed.
I gazed a gazely stare, at all the millions here.
We must have died alone. A long, long time ago."
When asked about the meaning of the song, Bowie said: "I guess I wrote it because there was a part of myself that I was looking for."
The song isn't about grief, but I've always found it to fit. I'll never be who I was before but sometimes I see her. Sometimes you feel so close that I could swear I know you. In a smile or a song or a rocking chair. Or on a playground.