someone to walk with
it took eight years. it took eight years of wanting, and wishing, and prayers on my knees. it took burying an unborn babe. and shots and more shots in my belly. it took, finally, making peace with the way that it was.
“we’re a tiny family, but we’re a wonderful tiny family,” the wise man i love finally said. he said it when it came time to quit. time to quit trying. time to quit making all kinds of bargains with those whom you bargain with when there’s one thing in the world that you want but you can’t make it happen. time to quit when my much rattled body nearly completely could not go on.
so peace we made.
the very last time it didn’t work, the very last time the doctor’s receptionist called, said matter-of-factly, you’re not pregnant, the numbers are bad, i cried and i cried. i rode my bike down to the lake, i rode and i cried.
i let go of dreams. i let go of the gaggle of children i’d always seen in my head. the ones i’d make tall stacks of flapjacks. the ones who’d be nestled all snug in their beds, the ones i would kiss forehead to forehead like back on the waltons. the ones who’d require milk by the gallons. three times a week.
i gave it all up and relished completely my one and my only. i marveled that given the odds stacked against me, we’d gotten him, so very easily.
but for years, it was my own private aching. when i saw two kids in a line at the movies, two kids who looked like they fell from the same genes, maybe the same whorl in their hair, or freckles spilled ’cross their nose. when i watched a big brother reach out a hand to a baby sister, pull her out of a sandbox where she was stuck.
when my own brother sat with me at the side of my mother, waking up from a surgery, still tethered in tubes, it wrenched me.
wrenched me and my heart in the same way i know it wrenched his.
he told me only once, but that was all i needed to hear. i was taking him out of the tub, wrapping him in a long white towel. he was three, maybe four.
“why can’t God hear,” he asked me, one of those questions children sling with no warning. we might have been talking about soap one minute and suddenly the channel had changed and now it was God of whom we were speaking.
what do you mean, i asked back, not sure quite what woods we were tiptoeing into.
“well, i keep asking him for a brother or sister, but God isn’t listening. i think maybe God can’t hear.”
and so i wrapped him tighter than ever that night. i wiped my tears with that towel. but all the tears, and all the unanswered questions got us no closer to a brother or sister for that sweet blessed all-alone boy.
then, one night i had a dream. a dream that a woman in a dark blue sweater looked at me and said, “you are pregnant.” and i was. at 43, almost 44. just about now, only seven years ago.
it turned out to be true. it turned out, despite the odds, despite the fact that every doctor who’d looked at me, in me, through me, turned out to be wrong.
God musta been listening after all.
we used to like to tell the story of the day we told the one and only. how we sat down to lunch, how the father there at the table said, most fatherly, “we have something important to tell you,” and then i leapt in and blurted it out, not at all restrained, or guarded, or considering the chance that this wouldn’t be. “we’re having a baby,” i said, already crying. and how he, then seven and a half, then used to a table with only three chairs, how he slapped himself upside the head, said, “this is a dream. i must be dreaming.”
only soon, my belly started to swell. and then there was kicking. and then one night in the shaft of a light, that baby came. his big brother was right there, watching. taking it in, every last drop.
and for the whole first year, every time i looked at that baby, i couldn’t not think of the fact, feel the chill down my spine, that sometimes dreams really do come true.
and it all came rushing back to me, as often it does, when i was walking in the woods the other day, and i looked up, and there were two boys, entwined. the way i always dreamed it would be. only better.
because i hear the things the big one teaches the little one. and i saw the way the little one couldn’t breathe, couldn’t bear it, when his big brother was hurt, so very hurt, the day he fell off his bike and moaned and asked if maybe he was going to die.
because i still don’t make flapjacks for dozens. but i do make them for two. and i do listen to the little one practice subtraction, asking when the big one is 70, how old will he be? and i know when i help him figure it out, all the take-away-8s, that way way down the bend, when i’m gone most likely, i will still have two boys who still have each other.
and long long ago, when i was aching but nobody knew it, that was the one unanswered prayer i could not put to rest.
but, thing is, God listened. God, after all, has very big ears.
just like both of my boys, matter of fact. i think maybe my boys spill from that very same gene pool. as a matter of fact, of that i am certain.
and i know that you know that’s not bragging. it’s just being in love. and that is a very fine thing for a mama. a mama of two, most especially.
tell me your sibling stories. i certainly spent eight years realizing the virtues of having only one child. i tried all those years to raise him in a virtual extended family. he had uncles who were really big brothers, still are. we had friends, some of whom were similarly singular, and we shared holidays and sunday dinners. had saturday sleepovers. tried as hard as we could to never allow him to think he was one and only in ways that might not be so good for a kid. but the times i catch the snippets of brotherly love, in the midst of brotherly squabbles, i melt. big time. tell me your tales of brotherly-sisterly being there for each other, in ways no one else could ever, would ever, understand….
speaking of brotherly, sisterly love, i tell you proud like a sister, that one of the chair puller-uppers, one you know and love for her wisdom and poetry as jcv, well, she is a writer who until yesterday had not seen her name in a newspaper. yesterday that all changed. in a very big way. she wrote a magnificent story that ran smack dab all over the perspective section of the chicago tribune. we like to think of it as the thinkingest section of the paper. and our very own jcv, and her beautiful beautiful story of her little girl and her “hearing maids,” made everyone think. about the power of hearing. about a world with no sound. about insurance companies who won’t pay for hearing aids for a child. i would love you to read it, if you’ve not had a chance. here it is, click to this link.
and happy week after turkeys.