Baby On Your Six

Thursday, April 28, 2016

One Decade

Hi Aaron,

Today, we're celebrating your 10th birthday.  You won't be there, just as you haven't been there for every birthday celebration we've held for you.  It's just hard to believe that 10 years have passed since that hectic late-evening ambulance ride to a hospital I'd never heard of to watch you be born 14 weeks too early.

I'll never forget the peculiar mixture of terror and excitement that took up residence in my gut when they told your mother and I that you would need to come now.  Excitement, because I would get to meet you so soon.  Terror, because I'd be meeting you too soon.

There are so many crazy stories that came out of that night, and the weeks that followed, surrounding you, your mom and I, and the rest of your family.  But one of my favorites is the one about the moment I truly became a father:

We'd already changed your name earlier in the evening - as far as the doctor knew, he was hard at work delivering Owen into the world, even though your mom had decided that Dad was being overruled and you were going to be named Aaron.  (Your mother was right by the way, you were totally an Aaron.)  Your mom was being operated on, I was sitting by your mom's head, holding her hand.  They'd lifted you free, and carried you over to a small surgical table to the side to make sure you were stable and you let out two tiny, but world-shattering, cries.  I turned my head to look at you, still holding your mom's hand, and started to stand up to come over to you.  Like I was struck by a lightning bolt out of the sky, I was transformed by those tiny cries (the only ones of yours I ever heard, by the way), and I immediately became a father.  I stood up to walk over to you, to help you, to do whatever I could to make you well, to make you happy, to appease your cries.  It was only your mother, tugging on my hand, and saying, "Honey?  What are you doing?" that brought me back to reality - there was nothing I could do for you.  You were in the hands of skilled, highly-trained professionals.  I was...I was just your father.  No matter how much I wanted to help you, I couldn't.  But for those few moments, after you cried to me, to your mom, to the world, I was just a dad trying to help his son, and I thank you for giving me those moments.
May angels lead you in.
Hear you me my friends.
On sleepless roads the sleepless go.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.
May angels lead you in.
And if you were with me tonight,
I'd sing to you just one more time.

- "Hear You Me", by Jimmy Eat World
Life was strange for your mom and dad for a very long time after you were born too soon, and left us even sooner.  We were Mom and Dad to a sick baby, who fought for life very hard, and made us immensely proud in the fighting.  Then we had to make funeral arrangements for a baby.  I can remember hiding in the hospital bathroom with your mom, right after you'd passed away in her arms, and fighting through shock and tears, hastily deciding where your final resting place would be, and remarking that we were 26 and 27 years old - how were we supposed to make arrangements for our child when we were only barely not kids ourselves?
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

- "Fix You", by Coldplay
Then we spent several years just trying to survive.  Watching friends and family have babies, silently and guiltily rejoicing every time they had a baby girl instead of a boy.  Finding ways to remember you any way we could without feeling like we were guilting others into remembering you with us if they didn't want to, and euphorically rejoicing every time they did.  Smothering parenting instincts that would keep bubbling up when we were with one of your cousins.  Fighting depression, anxiety, weight gain, and just struggling to get through the day sometimes.
Stronger, wiser
You'll be fine they tell ya
Life will heal and love will bind
Weaker, slower
Keep in mind it's over
Take a breath and take your time

Disaster has a way of remaking our hearts

Long after all the thunder and scars
Days pass and bit by bit we began to restart
Our disaster hearts

We will be the last ones (we will be the last ones)

To finally see when we're done (to finally see when we're done)
And we will be the last ones
To finally see when we're done

Disaster has a way of remaking our hearts

Long after all the thunder and scars
Days pass and bit by bit we began to restart
Our disaster hearts

- "Disaster Hearts", by I Fight Dragons
Then...well, then things started turning around.  People would say, "We've noticed that you seem happy," and we'd look at ourselves and say, "You know what...we kind of are a little happy."  Good friends and family had a lot to do with that - supporting us in our various endeavors to remember you, just being a listening ear and sometimes crying shoulder, or simply letting us know that they were there for us when we needed them.  Your little brother had something to do with that too - it's amazing to see Sammy run and play, to give us glimpses of how you might have grown up with us as your parents.
I'll wait up in the dark
For you to speak to me

-"Release", by Pearl Jam
Through it all, you've been a constant presence, despite your absence.  At times, I've felt you comforting me.  At other times, I've sang a song, or just a verse, out loud to you in the car (or in my head at my desk) because the lyrics reminded me of you, of the heartache of losing you.  I know that Sammy knows you're around too - he knows your name, and he's learning more about you every day.  My heart positively broke the day he asked your mom where you were.  We haven't really explained everything to him yet, but we've got a few books to read to him when that time comes.

I love you Aaron.  I love you as much today as I did the moment I first heard you cry in that operating room.  I will love you until the day I die and we are finally reunited.  Happy 10th Birthday, Aaron.  Here's to many more.

With love, Dad