Our son is eight today.
Last night he joyfully washed the seven off himself in the bath and then stood in front of his mirror for moment to say goodbye. Finally, just before he jumped into bed, he climbed onto my lap so I could have a last snuggle and kiss from a seven-year-old. It was a farewell ceremony filled with all of the pomp and pageantry it deserved.
My husband astutely reminded us that we will have another seven year old to snuggle and kiss in a year’s time, but this seven-year-old is unique and I’ll miss him. Please allow me to indulge myself for a few minutes. I won’t nauseate you with the details of his birth but there are few salient facts which must be disclosed.
Our boy tried to make his entrance much earlier than expected or desired. The docs managed to keep him in for a bit, but he was still premature by three and a half weeks. Thank god, because that kid was huge!
His nurses kept telling me that I must have had my dates wrong because he certainly looked full-term. Each time I explained that I was very sure of what my dates were, thank you very much, because we had required a little medical nudge to conceive.
Due to a mild infection, he needed to spend a few days in the neo-natal ICU. We spent our days there with him, and we couldn’t help but contrast his chubby limbs to those of the frail little preemies around him. The worry and fatigue of their parents was palpable and we knew how blessed we were to have a ruddily healthy baby. We didn’t care one bit about the dent in his head.
Oh, I didn’t mention the dent? Our son has a dent in his head. It’s not big, but it’s definitely not small either. The quick and dirty is that forceps were involved and now he has a dent.
We have always appreciated how lucky we are to have two energetic and strong boys. This is, in not some small part, due to the two times in our lives when the truth of that good fortune was branded into our souls. It hurt like hell both times.
When our boy was three, the son of my husband’s cousin died. He was also three.
When our boy was four, the son of my friend died. He was also four.
Both of these beautiful boys had always been very healthy and the shock from their sudden and tragic deaths is still with everyone who knew them.
I do not know my husband’s cousin. I think we may have met once at a family wedding, but the close birth of our two boys gave us a connection. Family members were always comparing pictures of them side by side and always confusing their birthdays and names (they were quite similar).
My friend and I worked in the same building and were pregnant at the same time. I was a couple of months further along so she was constantly popping into the office for advice and to discuss doctor visits. As our boys grew, we would frequently see each other at the playground or museum and the boys would happily run off to play. Again, we would compare notes and milestones.
When these boys died at the same ages of my son, I couldn’t help but make the mental leap and imagine, “What if it had been him?” I can’t even think of it now without being overcome with grief. If you are a parent, you know what I mean.
There is no way that I can know the true level of pain that these families suffered and are still enduring. When I run into my friend, now four years later, there is still a visible hole in her. She has three vibrant children whom she adores and one that she misses with every breath.
I often find myself absentmindedly scratching my son’s head when we read together at night. Invariably, my fingers find the dent above his left ear and I remember how lucky we are that he has it. Hell, I love that dent.