Today is a hard day. Every year, when this date rolls around, I find it difficult to concentrate and hard to function as a normal person. It’s something that has been a problem for longer than I care to remember. This year, it seems to have hit me even harder.
On my left wrist, I have a tattoo. It is a phoenix upon a kanji sign representing happiness. Below that is a date.
Of course one would wonder what the date means. Especially as I was born in 1982.
Thirty three years ago today, my mother gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. His name was Jacob, and he lived for three months.
My parents had wanted three children. So when Jake came into the world (after my brother and sister), my mother had her tubes tied. They thought they were done.
But in this world, there are no guarantees, and most agree that their deity of choice has a plan for them. Unfortunately, this plan is sometimes not to their liking. I have grown up knowing that if my brother hadn’t died, I would never have been born.
After the loss of their child, my parents tried to figure out their options. My mother wanted another baby, and my father wasn’t best pleased. Mom went through hell trying to get pregnant. Tubal reversal wasn’t common in those days, and there was no guarantee it would work. And when she DID eventually get pregnant (a small miracle), my father was upset. Really upset. I’ve been told that he almost left my mother because of it.
But again, if there is a grand plan, it included me. And later, it would include my little brother.
And while I felt completely WANTED growing up, I also felt a massive amount of guilt. In my young head, I took up the thought that I was responsible for his death. A really silly idea given that he was gone three years before I arrived. But when a thought takes hold in a child’s mind, it’s hard to get rid of.
Anyway, throughout my life, I’ve struggled with the situation. It is something that has driven me to the depths of depression at times. I remember one year early in my first marriage when I went home in October to visit the family. I happened to go to a bar with my older brother, where I drank myself stupid worrying that my parents hated me. When I got home, I had a complete breakdown in front of them. I accused them of hating me and blaming me, and I cried and raged at god and the world. My poor parents. They calmed me and soothed me and put me to bed, assuring me of their love. I cringe now when I think of it, knowing that they have their own troubles and their own heartache to deal with. But for me, I couldn’t get past it.
The last couple of years have been better. My older brother had a son and named him Jacob after the brother he knew and loved. It was fitting and appropriate. My burden lessened.
But this year, the heartbreak has returned. I think it is because I am now a mother with a beautiful young boy who is the light of my life. Today is his 8 month birthday. And there isn’t a single day of that 8 months that I haven’t worried and fretted about everything that could go wrong. He sleeps with a movement sensor under his mattress. I am OBSESSIVE about keeping his bed free from toys, pillows, excess blanket, etc when he is sleeping. I monitor him day and night as closely as I can.
Some people have chided me about how overprotective I am. But it helps me to cope.
Jacob never made it to 8 months old. And I can’t IMAGINE how hard that was on my parents. On my brother and sister. On the entire family.
But as much as it hurts them, I know they do not and will not forget him. And even I, who never knew him, who only ever saw pictures of him, I remember him, too. In the stories. In the visiting of his grave. I love him, and I pray often that he is looking out for his nephew even now.
Today I gave Dexter extra cuddles. I played a little longer, enjoyed his smiles and hugs a little more. I took him out to the mall and bought him some winter clothes. I got him some new boots and an adorable monkey costume, which I let him wear all afternoon.
I was so pleased when he hit a new milestone by figuring out how to walk quickly in his walker. He jetted around the living room like a ping pong ball, chasing wherever his daddy would lead him. He navigated corners and the narrow hall to the kitchen. He zoomed around like a speed demon. He was amazing.
And I smiled. Long and hard. And we all laughed. Big laughs that gave us the hiccups. And we told each other that we loved each other. And we knew it to be true.