Yesterday morning, my daughter woke to learn a friend of hers had died in a tragic accident. It’s rare that she cries, watching her face, her eyes, so broken, tore at my heart.
She’s seventeen, but of course, still my baby. Well, one of my four babies, all growing up now.
Today I am watching my little great-nephew, Emmett. He’s small and round and has long eyelashes and smells the way all babies do, with that purely addictive scent that implores complete strangers to want to stop and sniff a baby’s head.
This morning I was sitting on my front porch, holding this baby, rocking him, watching his face in his sleep. Now and then his eyelashes flutter, and his mouth will suddenly start sucking as though he’s got an imaginary bottle. Perhaps bottles of milk are what fill his little baby dreams.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I would start to nod off, and tears unbidden would slip down my face, mourning for a 16 year old boy I never met, crying for the family who is trying to understand how this tragedy happened.
I worried for my daughter, how she will deal with this, another death in what is beginning to feel like an unfortunate string of deaths in and surrounding our family. Just a few weeks ago, I sat each of my kids down and explained, one at a time, that their grandmother is terminally ill.
This baby I’m holding on the swing this morning, he would have been my sister’s first living grandchild. Her first died before he was born, and that was news we received just before my sister’s lung cancer diagnosis. That baby’s name was Liam. If Liam had lived, he would be two years old now. My sister would be 51 in mid June.
There are so many things I should be doing this morning. I have a short story that was due out on Sunday, and I have things I need to get priced for the quickly approaching Renaissance Festival, and a costume to finish to wear at the festival, and an ever-increasing stack of dishes in the sink.
Instead, I’m rocking Emmett on my front porch swing.
I’m looking at his perfect little face, his tiny rosy cheeks and chubby baby legs.
I’m thinking, his future is ahead of him, and he has unlimited potential. And one day this baby will walk, and go to kindergarten, make friends. One day he will fall desperately in love, and out again. Learn to drive. Fail a math test. Figure out what he will do as an adult. Go to college. Perhaps travel. Start his own family.
I’m thinking, one day, the mother of the boy who just died held her son and thought these same thoughts.
I’m thinking, I held each of my four babies, rocking them, imagining their futures, as well.
I’m thinking, my mother held my sister this way, and never imagined she would have to bury her so young.
I’m thinking, my grandmother held my father this way, not dreaming that when he died, she would still be living, but so far taken with dementia, she wouldn’t know it.
The siblings of Michael, the boy who died, they saw him fall.
We never had the chance to hold baby Liam.
My thoughts are so disjointed today, I’m struggling to focus on any task I set myself to. I’m filled to overflowing with emotions that I am unsure of how to handle. So I write, in the hopes of making some sort of logic out of them.
When my children were small, I tried to so hard to control their world. Anxieties were endless. What if they put something poisonous in their little mouths? Bumped their tiny heads too hard? What if I relaxed for just one second and something terrible happened?
Now they are older, and I worry about other things.
I think, what if a drunk driver hits their car? So I say, “Be careful! Wear your seatbelts!”
I think about all sorts of terrible things, and repeat things in my head, like don’t go too far, and please don’t try drugs, and come home safe to me as if the repetition of thoughts will somehow change the outcome of a choice.
I’m not even sure this post makes any sense.
I’m just holding this precious baby, and thinking on a swing.