What does it mean to have a relationship with someone? Does it mean talking to them on a consistent basis? Seeing them once in a while? Having fun together? Bouncing ideas off of them? It means a lot of different things to different people, and it is almost impossible to really define. But as I see now, it takes on a whole new definition; a whole new set of parameters.
I still have a relationship with my Andrew. I need to. It has evolved into something different, and is still evolving. It is very esoteric, very emotional, almost hypothetical. But it is still my relationship with my son. and as I said before, I need to have this relationship if I am going to stay sane and emotionally stable for the next five, ten, or whatever years I have left.
It is very different from my relationship with Nicole. I see her every couple of weekends. I get to watch her play hockey and get to cheer for her. I get to hug her after games and tell her how proud I am of her. We go out to dinner, I take care of her fish, I get to help her wash and clean her car, and we text once in a while (probably more than we talk). I get to ask her how school is, I worry about her when she is hurting, and share in her joys when she is happy or excited about something in life.
With Nicole, we are still growing. The relationship we have is still developing, and will for our entire lives. I find joy in making her happy. I love to cook for her when she is home and eagerly await her feedback about my attempts. She is coming home this weekend for a few days. I am making a frittata with caramelized tomatoes, spinach, potatoes, and onions for breakfast of Saturday and inviting grandma over. Saturday night I am grilling marinated flank steak, seasoned sliced baked potatoes, spinach, and some dumplings for an appetizer. I am making spinach pasta with fried panchetta one night with grilled romaine lettuce and blue cheese salad. And we are making fresh sushi rolls together on Monday (spicy shrimp rolls, shrimp tempura rolls, salmon rolls, and more).
It’s a lot of work, but it is more enjoyment than work. It gives us time together when we prepare and cook – time that I cherish. Deeply. The one comment that we will make a few times over the weekend – Andrew would have liked this. Or maybe he wouldn’t have. But we will talk about him. We will keep our relationship with Andrew alive through our conversations about him. We use the soy sauce that he loved and that he picked out – he was very picky about his soy sauce and only let us buy one brand. Maybe we won’t say anything about it, but we know we are using his soy sauce, and that would make him happy.
But back to Andrew….
I still talk to him. I still tell him how I feel, how I miss him, what I am feeling at that moment, that I still can not believe he is gone. I sit in his room sometimes and look around and imagine him there. I remember the good times when he used to build with his Lego’s, and when he used to take apart his paintball guns and replace parts and rebuild them. I keep his closet clean, I refold his clothes for him once in a while, and rearrange things around his room so I can see different things at different time. I have his Titans Hockey jacket hanging on his doorknob now so I see it every time I walk down the hall. Before that it was his black and white checker flannel shirt.
He is no longer physically here, he no longer tells me about life and what he is doing. But on many levels I am much closer to him now than I ever was. I used to think about him a lot. I used to have him in my thoughts much of the time, as well as Nicole. But now he is constantly in my heart, he is constantly with me. My relationship with Andrew is still very give and take. I get so much comfort thinking about the wonderful, but much too short life he enjoyed. I get a smile on my face knowing that he loved life, he loved what he did, he loved to travel and snowboard and live in Boulder. He loved his friends, and he had such a great relationship with his close friends that he enjoyed. The thoughts he gives me are cherished, and the memories he gave me for twenty one years are what keeps me going these days.
I started to scan the photographs we have from when Andrew and Nicole where born, to when we got digital cameras. There are hundreds of them, and I look at each one and smile as I set it down on the scanner. Each one of them brings back memories and builds my relationship with him.
Some can say that he is no longer here, and can’t give me anything going forward. I disagree. Just like a father who’s children grow older, move away and start their own loves, he is left with the memories of them growing up, going to school, playing sports, and traveling. These are the same memories I have of my son. As I remember them through thought or pictures, they build that relationship with Andrew. And they keep that relationship alive for as long as I can remember him and in my thoughts and love him in my mind.
As we get older, we forget things in life. We get new memories and forget the old one’s, it is a natural cycle. That is why I have to keep my relationship with Andrew growing. I can’t bear to lose a single thought of him. I can’t bear to forget a single detail of what he did in life, and how he looked and how he smelled, and how he drove, and how he loved. This is why I write about him. I need to be able to one day look back over these journals and pictures and make sure I never forget Andrew.