the other way

Some scientists say there are parallel worlds, realities stacked side by side like books on a shelf, or piled high in an old, dusty attic.  That seems obvious to me now that I have a whole other life hidden in my head.

The day went smoothly, the birth long but ultimately raw and right and beautiful and true.  Those first insane and breathtaking days when Silas was in our arms and screaming in our ears and staring into our eyes seemed to pass instantly and slowly, all at once.  The uncertainty of new-parenthood was a knot of fear and hope and determination in the core of my being.  I was positive I was the happiest person in the entire world, but then I'd look at my wife Lu as she breast-fed him, and I wasn't quite so sure.  Maybe the happiest man on Earth, I thought, settling for that and into the couch next to their bonded bliss.

Weeks turned to months and already a big baby, he grew fast on mom's milk.  I learned to change diapers, to hear the language of his wailing cries in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the everything.  The middle of everything, that's exactly what he was whether he was awake or asleep, or whether I was, too. He slept well.  He was ahead of the curve.  Naps were long and pleasant.  He weaned easily and ate everything.  He learned to talk early and told us things I could never imagine.

On it goes, that impossible world, each day we didn't live that way seared into my mind as time pressed on.

The not-so-funny-part is that I had to make it all up before Zeph came along, but now I know exactly, specifically, precisely every single fucking detail of everything that we missed and everything we won't have. That parallel world I first inhabited wasn't just a figment of my imagination, it was the only salve to my damaged soul.  Simply accepting this world with all of its not-Silas-ness was a physical impossibility. I fantasized that whole other way as I cried and drove or lay stewing wide awake deep in the night, not hearing the wails of my dead son.

For years I was a shadow of myself, a projection of what I should be, even as half of me was gone within, wading into the deep deep deep waters of grief and anger, of loss and pain, of utter and complete rage that the midwives had failed us, that this is how the Universe rolls, and that it had just rolled right over us squashing us to nothingness and drowning us in tears.

But when Zeph was born, everything began to change in that parallel world.  Instead of feeling split in two, divided equally between the what-is and what-should, I had to focus strongly on the life in front of me.  Silas as his three year old older brother was harder to see than the baby we never had, and now the baby we did.  As Zeph grew day by day and the fantasy vision of Silas's life was shattered on the shrieks and laughter of an actual baby, I felt that other way slowly fade and dissolve, merging into the single path we now tread.

It is a relief to be whole, even with the hole.  Living halfway in a hope that could never be was maddening and exhausting.  Silas is gone.  Zeph is here.  In order for Zephyr to have the joyful life I want him to have, the only thing I can do is to be here with him, all the time.

But that other life is in me, still.  Still I grieve.  Still.


What do your parallel worlds look like?  How much time do you spend there?  Is there a certain time of day or part of your life where you feel the life you never had more strongly? How do you reconcile what you wanted with what you have?