My dear, sweet boy,
In less than two hours, I’ll take your sisters to your Emie & Daddy Joe’s house and will drop them off and will head to the hospital to have your last little sibling who we still only know as Mystery Baby.
Today is December 21, 2017. It’s the first day of winter. It’s the start of a new season. In 2012, I began my stumbling (and somewhat unsteady and unwilling, at least at first) foray into motherhood. For the past five-and-a-half years, spare five months, I have been keeping another person alive with my own body; after today, I’ll have another year to go, God-willing.
I’m not complaining. God knows I’d give anything to have been able to be part of the group of women who–rightfully deserve to–complain about the challenges of motherhood and womanhood as they nurse, feed, love, cradle, coddle, and fret over their cherubic, growing babies. I’d give anything to not know what it was like to have to say goodbye before I said hello.
But, here we are–there you are in heaven; here I am on Earth. Losing you nearly three years ago (how are you only five days away from being three?) initiated a season within a season, one in which pregnancy and childbirth were characterized by fear and anxiety, but also one in which I–as a person and a woman, grew up immeasurably. I didn’t realize how young I was until I lost you. I also didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about peace and faith or myself. I would rather have you here and have learned those lessons the hard way, but my goodness, you’ve done more for me than anyone has, and you do it unceasingly.
I’m a 34-year-old woman, getting ready to have her last C-section, her last baby. I’m about to bid my childbearing years goodbye and to look ahead toward the future, a future in which I am a mother to four children, no matter whether I can only relate to them spiritually and emotionally or physically as well. Today truly ends and begins a season of my life.
I only came to the realization of the parallel between the actually day–December 21–and the symbolism last night, but before that, something else that represents the way life comes full circle happened.
We’d walked to your Emie & Daddy Joe’s house yesterday evening. We stood at the end of the long driveway, and I asked my dad if I could take one of his oranges. He grows a huge variety of citrus in the front and back yards. He consented and led me toward the backyard. I followed, surprised and a little confused that he didn’t want to give me one of the sweet oranges that were hanging on the tree nearest to us.
As I waddled down the driveway, I thought about December 2014. I thought about Dad’s grapefruits. He has a mammoth and prolific tree in his backyard that for years has produced hundreds–hundreds–of grapefruit. After I lost you, when I was numb and had no taste or zest for life whatsoever, Dad kept bringing me grapefruit from his tree. He brought grapefruits to me in the hospital. Other people brought food, and usually, by the time a visitor left or I’d stopped crying, the food was spoiled, and so when I could and would eat, I would peel into a grapefruit and eat the juicy, tart-sweet spoils. It was like comfort food from God.
Of course, in 2015, as I wrote about here, the tree sustained trauma due to a bitterly cold frost that early winter. The tree barely produced. It was a metaphor for me…for what I’d gone through, for what I was going through.
The following season, the tree produced again; though, its nature had changed. This year, I couldn’t recall if the tree was producing a single fruit. A downed branch earlier in the summer and some other issues led me to believe that the special tree might not live much longer…let along produce fruit.
Dad opened the metal gate leading to the pool area behind which stands the tree. He reached into the tree and pulled a large, low-hanging grapefruit from the branches. “Oh wow, Dad. This means so much,” I said, hugging him.
“I grew that one especially for you. I thought that one’s for my Amy,” he replied as we turned to go.
I don’t believe in luck or charming one’s fate with rituals, but the simplicity behind my dad’s thoughtfulness and the timing of the situation, could not have been more profound for me in that moment or more comforting. I realized, too, that my dad’s gesture symbolized something else, the ability to overcome a past.
Growing up, Dad and I weren’t particularly close. Too similar, we clashed. I was emotional and high strung; he was pragmatic yet high strung in his own ways. Both of us were intense and clever and determinedly right. It was really stressful for both of us. In my teens and 20s, I was bothered by the reality that if something were to happen to my dad, he’d have been a person I loved but never knew.
After I grew up some more, got married, and learned a thing or two about life, Dad and I started talking more and more and more. I don’t know his whole story; he still surprises me with aspects of his past that I am intrigued and entertained by. I do know, though, the story he and I share, and the fact that we have that shows me how much it’s possible to grow and to blossom even after the hardest of seasons.
My darling Jude. I should probably go start getting ready. It’s almost time. No matter what happens today, you, your sisters, and this last little baby are all my darlings. I’m thankful for the past five-and-a-half years. They made me who I am, but I’m also thankful to turn the page and to look toward a future shaped by my past but not ruled by it.
As always, I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.