He’s still little, Aidan is. Six years old and only started kindergarten in September.
We bonded over the summer when I introduced butcher paper and bright markers into his world.
He drew towns and cities and worlds for hours on end. Cars, ships and houses.
“Draw your house here Midth Angel.”
He didn’t talk much then, and still has a hard time with words. But he can draw, and tells complex stories with his drawings.
“Dith is me and MidulAngelo. He prodects me at home. We met on de Ditantic and daved people.
[Met on the Titanic.]
Aidan loves me. I know that he does and I don’t know why. I love him right back.
When his family of five arrives at my facility he he’s always the first in the door. I see him before he sees me and I don’t deserve the look on his face as he scans the room to find me.
He runs to me like a whirling dervish, yelling “Hey, Hey!”
Heads turn at the noise of him, but I don’t shush him. Not this golden child.
Hands out for a happy high-five, I say, “hey buddy, how are you?”
As is with most kids, the niceties are lost on him and he launches right into what he wants to talk about.
“Somethingsomething, we saw it! Indiscernible and dis is Baby Groot.”
Brushing dark hair out of his big brown eyes, he looks up at me with complete trust. Plastic Baby Groot is offered with outstretched hands.
Oh sweet little one. Did you know that I can’t always understand what you say? Is that why you started bringing the Target ads, to show me your favorite super heroes?
“Dis is de Iwon Man Wego but Twny Start is not weally in dere-a-uh.”
(In Aidan’s vocabulary, some words at the end of a sentence have two and often three sing-song syllables.)
You funny little fella. You roll your eyes at me when I tell you I’ve never seen the movies you bring and place in my lap.
The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy. Captain America. Thor.
“My sons have seen them though,” I say.
“Ou can’t have doose boys. I’m woure boy,” he proclaims, pointing at his chest.
“Wake the deal-uh,” Aidan insists, holding out his hand to shake on it.
“Ok buddy, you can be my boy while you’re here today.”
Then for the briefest of moments I allow myself to remember another boy who was mine for a day. The newborn son who lies in a cold grave near his grandparents, his birth and death dates the same.
It seems forever ago, but it wasn’t. It’s just that the girl I used to be was also buried that day.
“Would my son have been like Aidan? Overjoyed with the smallest of attentions? Elated with a big empty piece of paper onto which he could draw his own universe?”
“Is he mad at me that he died? Does he think it was my fault? Does he love me?”
“Does he know that I was so young and afraid? That I thought the doctors knew best when they sent me home that night?”
“Who would he be now?”
I still ask those things, the questions without answers. This side of Heaven, I’ll never know.
I do know this though, grief paralyzed me after he died. Then shame strangled me.
“Her baby died. I’m not sure what happened. But she’s not even taking care of her two-year old. Her younger sister comes every day and stays there most nights.”
The gossip was right. I didn’t take care of anyone then, not even myself.
All I did was lay in bed and relive over and over not fighting back when the doctor said, “Oh you aren’t in labor. It’s too early. Go home and rest.”
I relived giving birth with just my husband in the room, him screaming for help when I told him what was happening.
Relived how peaceful it felt when the baby moved against my legs and I thought for a few seconds that he might not die.
The flashbacks of holding him never stopped. He struggled to breathe, before they took him to “see if there was anything that could be done for him.”
“He’s little though. Don’t expect a miracle.”
But the worst thing was constantly reliving my sister entering the room 45 minutes later, holding the baby.
“I found him next to the sink, on the counter. They said he died and nothing could be done. They were waiting for the doctor to finish stitching you up before they brought him back. But he’s moving. He’s not dead.”
I relived reaching out for the baby. His chest slowly rising and falling. Then faster frantic breaths, his tiny fingers jerkily grasping, his head moving from side to side as he fought for air.
My husband screaming again at the call button speaker.
Then, the baby just didn’t take another breath. I relived the deathly silence. Over and over again.
For months afterward I stayed in my dark bedroom clutching the blanket he was wrapped in, my wet tears mingling with tiny drops of dried blood. (My blood, not his. He was perfect.)
One day my two-year old son came in and patted me on the cheek. Silently, he touched my face. Sweet little fingers tried to gently pry open my eyes.
“Mommy get up. Mommy come back. Mommy come play.”
So I did.
The empty shell of me tried to live a semblance of a life. I mostly failed. But I was up walking around and to everyone in my life, that seemed to be a huge improvement.
I prayed for months after my son died, that God would give me a dream of the baby.
I so desperately needed to see him somewhere besides that tiny casket. Somewhere besides being lowered into the hard red dirt.
Over a year later God answered that prayer.
I dreamed I was in church when a laughing toddler with wavy dark hair and big brown eyes peaked over the pew in front of me. His chubby little arms stretched towards me, smiles wreathing his face.
I reached for him but before I could hold him, the dream ended. I awoke with full knowledge and memory of my baby as I saw him, his soul alive.
I started the long journey of healing at that moment in time. Bitterness of soul lingered, but my wavering faith was completely replaced with sure knowledge that I will hold my son again one day.