Your brother's tear duct was clogged.
I guess to put it more accurately, it didn't open.
As it turns out, this is fairly common among newborns. When he was three days old I noticed the slimy, clear-ish discharge gathering in the corners of his perfect eyes. It bothered me.
The pediatrician assured me this was most likely the cause, to call back if I was having to clear the area increasingly, more than every two hours. I never did, and it has (seemingly) resolved itself rather quickly. Knock on wood.
I find it strange that after you died, I only had about five good cries. The really ugly, gut-wrenching cries that last for awhile and make it hard to breathe. The ones where you double over and need someone to help you up. The cries that leave you exhausted the next day.
Don't get me wrong, I've cried much more than five times. But not like that.
The past three weeks they've caught up with me, I guess. Sixteen months' worth of knock you to your knees, hyperventilating, hide- from- your- five- year- old- in- the -back- room cries that seem to come out of nowhere. Staring into the gaze of my precious newborn and I cannot breathe. It's like some poison that I've saved. Pent up and writhing inside me just below the surface. Lately, I can't summon the strength to hold it in.
And I'm confused, because I've never been happier. Never been more grateful. Never slept better.
I think back to the times where I should have been on this ground, incapacitated. Two weeks out. Two months out and returning to work. Six months. A year. All of the "milestones" that I lost with you that come and go in stride. I'm prepared for the letdown each time, perpetual tissues in my purse for the tears that never come. And now I wonder if he's opened some gland within me too.
There are few images so imprinted in my memory that they affect my everyday.
Of course, there is you. All beautiful and perfect, with your long toes and fingernails. The lips that you share with your father and your brothers, and that full head of dark hair. A puzzled, content look as you lie in my arms. Almost like you understood what happened, like you'd accepted it long before your mother ever could.
There are your brothers. The joy that I felt as they were first handed to me. The same joy that tries to escape me on the hard days, only it never could. This joy that is a part of me now. In the flesh.
And then there is Dewey. Looking back, it seems like he was some sort of sign.
I adopted Dewey in the summer of 2008, as my college graduation present to myself. He was the cutest, dark brown Australian shepherd mix I had ever seen. I picked him out one week on a whim and brought him home the following Saturday. The shelter worker told me he had recently been neutered. She showed me the bandage and assured me the bleeding would stop, only it never did. Late that afternoon I got worried and took him to the university animal hospital. They said Dewey likely had a clotting disorder. It was the opposite of mine actually, in that his blood refused to clot. There was an additional stitch or two and another bandage. They told me he should see his vet on Monday.
Dewey and I spent the day together. I showed him off to all my friends. We visited the pet store and bought all kinds of puppy toys. I remember getting out of my car to pay for gas that day and returning five minutes later, my stomach dropping when I noticed the empty back seat. Only he wasn't gone. I found him cuddling the pedal.
I went to dinner that night and asked my neighbor friend to check on him while I was gone. He called to tell me that something was wrong. I left immediately.
In the two hours I'd been gone, Dewey had bled through his little blue bandage. I picked him up and we returned to the animal hospital around midnight. I remember him chewing on my shirt, running in circles on the carpet as I started the car.
We rang the after hours bell and the lady took him back. I fell asleep on the waiting room chair, confident he needed another stitch or two and then we'd be back home. When she returned her eyes were soft. I remember her words, telling me how "he'd lost too much blood" and how "his heart had slowed" and then she said "he's ready to go."
I couldn't believe it.
She asked if I'd like to be in the room, and I thought I owed him as much.
"How long have you had him?" she asked me. I was hysterical.
"One day," I managed.
It was nearly three in the morning when I held him in my arms. The first injection was to flush the line, she said. It must have been cold because he jerked looking up at me, and I'll never forget that look. The second and he was gone. So peacefully and so finally, alone in my arms.
She asked what I'd like to do with him, with his remains. He could be cremated there or I could take him home with me. I couldn't bear the thought of driving up Rock Quarry Road with him, past the gas station we had been together hours before, carrying him inside and burying him with the sunrise. I chose the former.
"Okay sweetie," she patted my shoulder. "There is a $225.00 fee."
And so, this broke college graduate drove home at five am, in hysterics, with the tiniest little casket in her passenger seat.
I remember thinking it was so unfair, how something so perfect and innocent and small was granted such a hand. I remember thinking that it was my fault, how I had been so happy and excited just hours before at the adoption shelter, how I hadn't seen it coming. I remember thinking that it was the most traumatic experience of my life. And I would be right, for six more years anyway.
This grief is complicated. I'm not sure I do it justice by stating that I'm happy or that I'm sad. I'm not sure any words could explain how holding a newborn in your arms evokes thoughts of death, images of still lips and chaplains and a failed responsibility. Long drives with caskets up twisty roads in the fall. How a presence can conjure such an absence.
The other day I was driving with your brothers. Our first outing together, the three of us alone to an oil change of all places. One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands from high school came on the radio. "Wish you were here", by Incubus. I hadn't heard it in years.
Of course the Pink Floyd song of the same title is much better than this one, (this is true of any Pink Floyd song and any other song, really) but I digress.
I have always liked this song. And it's not because of the huge crush I had on Brandon Boyd. Turns out, it's much simpler than that.
"I dig my toes into the sand.
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds, strewn across a blue blanket.
I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless.
And in this moment I am happy.
I wish you were here."
And I had to pull over for a moment, to stare at my beautiful boys in the back.
And to recognize your absence, and I always will.
Perhaps it isn't so complex. This juxtaposition. This future without you.
Perhaps it's incredibly simple to explain.
Today and fifty years from now, my life in those twelve words.
In this moment I am happy.
I'm happy and I wish you were here.