Tristan’s birthday

I’m glad Christmas and Hogmanay are over. I learned they were things I had to move through, that I didn’t have to enjoy them or deal with them in any particular way. I was under no obligation to particularly feel their significance or grieve onerously. I just had to stand still and allow the end of the year to move through me.

Tristan’s birthday was on the 19th of December. The day before was worse than the birthday because of the anticipation.

On his birthday we went for our second scan to look at the baby, a proper all over scan that counted the bones, looked at the baby’s huge, flushed heart, and examined the brain. It was wonderful. That’s what we made the day about, and then it was over.

The day after was surprising for just how bad it was, because it meant that time was definitely, relentlessly moving. I felt so sorry for my mother, who’d brought him home on Christmas day and laid him under the tree, saying he was her best present ever. I couldn’t stop thinking about how she was coping, waiting for Christmas day to come, and I couldn’t stop crying.

A few days ago, Lizzie’s mother came to visit. Just before she left, she mentioned there was a box she had for us in her car that I should bring up because it was heavy. I didn’t realise till the last second that it was Tristan’s stuff. She’d had a car at the time and was able to keep it for us, and I’d forgotten she had it.

Mostly they were things he’d kept in the techie box at the theatre. There were games, books, CDs. There were cards from friends and a few from me and Lizzie. One from my Grandma. There were files. There were his things from hospital, the edges of him; the hospital form, detailing his belongings; his wallet, containing cards and change; a watch, and gloves. At first I didn’t know what to do with all these things. I had a very panicked moment. But then I decided to put them away; not in a box in some corner where I’d think about him, trapped in the dark, but up on my shelves. I put his books here and there, put his files with my files, and set his gloves, watch and wallet up on a high shelf. It feels – now, this will sound odd – as though his outline is here. There are no things which exactly define who he was, but these little things together, scattered through the house, make it feel as though the fingertips, the outline of my brother has settled in here. It’s comfortable.

So many things are happening this year. Soon my first child will be in the house, being a perfect little hand grenade. People have said a new life sometimes comes in when one life goes, and I wish they wouldn’t. That’s no kind of pressure to put on an innocent kid. Anyway; this year a new life comes into the house. It couldn’t be more welcome or treasured.