My point being, when he was three, he had lots of words he mispronounced (which we've come to learn many three-year-olds do...we must have been major suckers to sign those checks week after week!). But during that time, one of my favorite words of his was 'member'. As in, "Mom, member when we..."
Or: "I member that! That was fun!"
His turn of phrase struck me as more than just the omission of a syllable. It suggested a joining of sorts. A being a part of. A membership. He members. He's included.
But then there was this...the flip side of the coin: when he didn't remember, when his brothers or dad or I were talking about some past history of which he was not a part or too young to absorb, he didn't say he 'didn't member'. No, he said 'dismember'.
Always with a heavy heart. Always with a woeful shake of his head, his brow furrowed.
As in: "I dismember that, Calbin." (We were working on names, too.) His face would cloud over, as though he were confessing to a particularly disappointing transgression. "I'm sorry, I dismember it, Nate."
Dismember. To take apart. To separate limb from body, to slice a piece from the whole. To divide. Every time he said it, my mind slid left of where he intended to something more violent, more dramatic, than he meant.
It settled on less than. Weakened. Apart from the heart of things. And it saddened me.
I thought about all the events and people and places he 'dismembered' through no fault of his own...all that he tried so hard to 'member', in order to weave himself back into our vernacular. To seam--no, to fuse--his imperfect recall, so frustratingly unreliable, to the rest of us and our memories.
To our old house with the maroon door. The car we used to drive. Grandpa Bob. Relatives we rarely see. Our vacation to DisneyWorld. The time Calvin threw up all over the back seat of the van. The day Nate fell off the swingset. The Mexican place on the corner that's now out of business but used to be a doughnut shop where we'd stop on Saturdays.
None of these things are in Toby's lexicon. Not really. Not fully. He was forced to jump into a game already in progress, a story already started, a dance already choreographed.
But what he dismembers, and what I wish he'd member now (even if he does know how to pronounce the word correctly), is that we weren't really whole until he came along. We were disjointed, still gathering the pieces that would one day fit. Our stories lacked the exclamation point only he can bring, the giggle from the backseat, the goofy ad-lib and improv he trademarks so effortlessly.
So thank you, Toby, for joining up. For membering us, starting now.