“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” – Tinkerbell to Peter Pan, in Hook.
In the early morning moments, in a sleepy place between dreaming and waking, I think of Jackson and our old lives. I see him, I feel him, I sense him. Some waking part of my brain says he’s not there, and the sleepy part just says “Shhhhhhh”, lulling me back into a warm, comfortable, nostalgic place.
I see him again, his face, those glimmering eyes with a thirst for life. That sweet, brown hair that always catches the sunlight. That perfect nose, those perfect lips, his perfect skin. He’s motioning and talking and playing and I’m watching him on a movie reel. Except it’s not any scene I’ve seen before, it’s something new, or a blend of a thousand memories at once.
I try to touch him, and the waking part of my brain moves in with a stern warning – if you move too quickly this will disappear. I back off slowly, like prey that has been spotted, and try to summon back the sleepy place. I imagine what plans we have for today. Backyard play date at Ada’s house? I’ll make sure to pack his green swim trunks and turtle sun shirt, and extra change of clothes. I’ll bring his doggie shirt that he loves to imitate and his cutest khaki shorts. Plus a couple of back up undies – the grey ones with navy stars, his favorite. And his toddler birkenstocks – the ones Ada loves to wear – they can negotiate trading shoes later. Ada’s mom will have sunscreen. We’ll just bring some snacks and the potty.
At some point the waking brain takes over and I "come to" the painful reality that is our lives. But it’s gradual, not sudden. I see it coming, the colors begin to fade and the vividness starts to wane. I would resist it, but by now I know it’s futile. It slowly disintegrates right before me, and clutching at the pieces only makes it worse. So, I let it go. Like parting with a loved one you won’t see again for a long time, I softy say goodbye and let him fall away.