My Jem turned 6 today. What a huge moment for a little guy! He’s been counting the days because for the last week he’s been the same age as his little sister, Scout, and he really wanted to move on from there.
When one of my kids has a birthday I like to change my Facebook profile picture to one of their newborn pictures. I have only one ‘newbornish’ photo of Jem in my possession because when my children and I fled our abuser we left everything behind in exchange for our lives. My ex destroyed everything of sentimental value that we owned, including all of my photos. It hurt when we discovered so many of our treasures, all of them irreplaceable, were gone forever.
Now and then I get angry at my ex for all that he shattered, for all the pain and loss, for the incredibly difficult struggle we face as the survivors of his atrocities, to move on, heal, embrace life and live. I still feel hurt by how we were disregarded by him — how he didn’t see us for the beautiful, loving, fragile people that we are. I get angry, too, when I think of the sentimental items we left behind that he decimated just because he knew it would hurt us. It distresses me that my Melody no longer has the sweater I gave her that belonged to her deceased father.
My heart breaks when I think of our loyal dog, Boo, and what her final moments must have been like. I mourn her still, and so does Artie. It’s a loss I don’t think we’ll ever be able to completely bear because her last days aren’t known to us — in my panicked frenzy to save the lives of my children I failed to realize our abuser would be only too happy to deliver his wrath upon our faithful companion. I will always believe that I failed her.
This morning as I was lamenting the fact that I have not one single photo of Jem on the day of his birth, I found solace in my understanding that today that doesn’t have to hurt me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have photographs.
I have something better.
I have Jem.
Happy birthday, son!
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