I sit by the water, watching our nephews play in the lake during our family vacation, splashing around as they jump in the waves. They are nine and twelve and quintessentially “boy”- loud, dirty, and full of energy. Miles adored his cousins, especially watching them play. He would sit contended in his little chair, his little limbs gesticulating everywhere in excitement as he watched my younger nephew slam dunk ball after ball at his mini basketball net. He would have grown up idolizing his cousins. He should have grown up idolizing them.
I have felt Miles’ absence so deeply this week. Miles would be almost seventeen months old now- a toddler. As the rest of our family enjoys time together, complete with wonderful food and lots of laughs, I can’t help but think how much Miles would have added to every single moment. The family dinners where he would have entertained us with his silly faces. The moments down by the water where he would have chased the ducks, falling every once in a while as he continued to get used to walking with his prosthesis. The quiet times where I would have watched him sleep deeply after long days full of action, his beautiful lashes fluttering every so often as he dreamt. I yearn to be able to watch him grow and change. To see him at every new stage and to marvel at all of the new things he would learn to do. It’s like he is frozen in time as a one-year-old- he will never move beyond that stage, and we will never get to see all that he would have done.
As my older nephew sat curled up beside me for a movie last night, I breathed in his scent- a mixture of sweat, lake water, and fresh air. The smell of boy and of summer. I will always ache for the boy that Miles never got to be. For the summers we never got to spend together. For the childhood he never got to have. I will continue to imagine him here with us forever. He’s our absent family member, but he still has a presence.