I knew I was going to have to go back. I didn’t know it was going to be today. I decided on a whim to take Gabe back there today while Lilly had karate class because I was tired of making him sit in the car with me for an hour. It wasn’t enjoyable for either of us. I needed the park to work for my sanity, and for Gabe to be able to get out and have some fun before dark.
It looked like a very familiar, yet drastically different place. The seasons have changed since I was last there and all the trees have yellow leaves or no leaves left. We took a walk down to the river front first, and within the firts few yard of walking, it hit me. The last time I was here Milo was alive and well. It was only days before he died. It was such a normal and routine place for us, and now it feels deflated and strange. When I got to the river I could see the water so well with all the foliage dying back. We turned the path and there it was. The bench down by the river, now surrounded by a picture perfect carpet of leaves. This was the last place I took his portrait, for his 11 month photo. It ended up being the photo we used for his obituary. It was also so haunting to be there and know that he was there, and now never will be again.
It was okay. I had shed a few tears while walking, but it wasn’t that bad. Eventually we had made it back around to the playground and Gabe took off into the structure and to play with the few kids that were there. I don’t know why I did it, but I went right to the swing. I didn’t think it was going to hit me as hard as it did, I thought I had already dealt with the tears I needed to shed. I put my hand on it, and of course, it still felt the same. It was still real. Then I lost it. I just stood in the empty playground and cried. Hot, effortless tears ran down my face as Gabe came over to me. He’s become accustomed to finding me like this and he says “Oh, you miss Milo?” and I respond yes, and he looks at the ground and says “We all miss Milo.”
I was never more glad for an empty park. The one other mom and two older kids soon left and it was just Gabe and I alone there. I went to a bench in the back and just sat and cried. I needed to do this. I needed to be able to go back to the park. It wasn’t fair to Gabe to never take him again. I sat for another 15 minutes or so just trying to take it all in. It was so gloomy, lonely, and silent aside from Gabe climbing and sliding. It was also calm, peaceful, and innocent. This was a happy place. I need it to be a happy place.
It’s just a park, I thought. But no, it’s more than that. It was one of the few places that Milo absolutely loved. He loved the swing – we had orderd him one for indoor use this winter for his birthday gift. He always smiled and babbled so big in it. He enjoyed the thrill of going a little too fast and a little too high, which was high adventure for my little mellow fellow. He would flash that worried face for a split second when I pushed him higher and then would melt into his huge grin when he locked eyes with me and knew THIS was fun. The most fun. He had swung in this particular swing more than any other all summer. It’s a unique swing, worn and warped with age and exposure to the elements. I stood by it for several minutes, just feeling it’s texture and the weight of it swinging empty. I wanted so badly to push it and feel the resistance of him in it. I wanted to hear the creak of the chains, but without his weight it didn’t make the sound.