Gareth and I watched Toy Story 3 before bed, and by the end of the movie Gareth could point to Woody and say "cowboy!" It's pretty exhilarating to watch Gareth grow and learn so quickly. It seems like he has a new word everyday, a new way to surprise me, a new reminder that he is growing up fast. TOO FAST! He is quickly approaching his 2nd birthday and it is quite startling to realize that the baby I carried, that I fretted over in the NICU, that I wore so close to my body before he could crawl, that baby is no longer a baby. He is a little boy, talking, running, pouting, sharing, loving little boy. And while that is a life altering joy, I also cannot help but grieve at the change - not because he is growing, but because Cliff isn't here to be apart of the growing.
I visited Cliff this weekend at his new prison unit, the first time I've seen him since January 17th. It was a two hour visit and even though it was a conversation partitioned off by thick glass, I cannot begin to describe to you the relief I felt. We were mere centimeters apart from one another, the closest we have physically been to each other since November 17th. Soon (within the next two months) I will actually be able to touch him, to hold his hands for two whole hours. It will be in a crowded room surrounded by strangers and prison guards, but it will be an intimacy I haven't had in 4-5 months.
I feel like in some ways, Gareth and I are sharing a common developmental stage - each day we learn new words. Now I know about 3G crimes and G1-4 classifications. Now I can talk about good time, parole, commissary accounts and visitation lists. My vocabulary is constantly changing, growing with prison terms, with legal jargon, with survivor language. I never wanted to know these words, and unlike my son's joy at each new word, I grimace that my world has become so filled with this damned vocabulary. But I have no choice - just like Gareth is learning, this is the world and you need words to help understand it, to help navigate through it, to help connect you to other people.
But for now, if you don't mind, I'm going to focus on "cowboy" and "elephant" and "paw-paw" and other such gems that Gareth shares with me. Some words really ARE better than others...