Today is July 29th. Not any July 29th. I have been waiting for this day since January 2005, that is when I was informed that July 29th (marking their 4 th B-Day) was to be our mark. A milestone accomplishment, a beginning, of new hope. "Resounding clear in my head was the words of the Doctors, ' If they make it to the age of 4 their odds of making it to adulthood and living to a typical lifespan greatly increases dramatically'".
I have heard this over and over in my head for the past 3 1/2+ years. Each birthday came and went as a mark of accomplishment but we still had another year or so to go.
Birthday #1 was marked with distance. The boys were living in separate cities, our time with them was split. and though I enjoyed my time with them this day it was heart wrenching for me. As I sat alone in San Fransisco with JJ to eat his first birthday cake and wonder if there would be a second birthday.I asked the nurses to come in and eat some cake as well to keep the silence from being so deafening. JJ could feel the air in the room was different that day. I watched his birthday balloons hanging above his crib and thought this child needs more....not gifts on this day but fresh air, happy smiles, his brothers and father who love him. He deserves life, to touch, feel, and be...the ability to be free of this isolation and loneliness. Instead he shared his first birthday with a mother full of fear, and sadness wanting to make it better, but unable to do anything more that share in the listening of the concert of beeps coming from the monitors, reminding me that life can be fleeting and the moment I had before me was just for him and me. I sang him Happy Birthday a number of times. Sometimes I would sit him up on my lap and it it cheerfully, other times rocking him in mt arms and singing the words softly as though the whisper in his ear was our secret. Hours clicked on, I would stare at the clock, feeling guilty for not being with the other boys, but more guilty to get up and go. As the time rolled on JJ sensed I was to leave. He had been through this many, many times before. His mother coming and going as nurses and strangers would care for him in my absence. Time was in that room clicking away with the monitors by his sides. I wanted to be alone with him, I knew this day would playback in my memory whether as a birthday memory with my son, or as the only birthday of my son.
It became time to leave, I had a 2+ hour drive ahead of me. I had kept him awake the majority of the day. Usually to make me feel better, I would wear him out put on some music for company and leave as he slept comfortably. That was not what was to be this day. I sat in my rocking chair and stared at JJ laying on his tummy in his crib, his balloons floating gently with the air conditioner unit. Our eyes deadlocked and we stared, I sang along to the CD, and he was not going to sleep today. It was his day. He continued to stare at me, I continued to sing to him the songs as they came. Our eyes were locked. Fighting any notion to sleep, or rest,he stared. Today was not going to be like the other days, he seemed to say, with you playing that cruel trick of putting me to bed and then to awaken on my own...alone. That was not going to happen today, JJ stared at me. As he stared I felt him say stay with me mommy it is my birthday. So we continued our stare down while the music played. And I knew we were no longer alone in that room. The room was full of a birthday party, not a themed one with streamers and horns, but full of loved ones to wish JJ well, and a Redeemer's love so strong I began to feel that I too was home...Later I convinced myself this love and presence would stay as I left, though I did call in a nurse to continue patting his back. I kissed my fingers and stroked his head, and we promised each other we would be together and with Carson the next year.
So today on July 29th, I will sneak in their rooms and kiss them gently on the heads knowing we made it to this 4th birthday and our chances of doing this for a lifetime have dramatically gone up.