Two years. That's the number. Two trips around the sun. One and a quarter more than James ever made himself. People don't always know. "I didn't know you had kids" they'll say. I don't lead with it. "Hi, my name is Matthew, did you know about my dead son?" Conversation killer. But when they ask, I'll tell them. "Yes, I had a son. He passed away a few years ago." This answer is incomplete. Criminally so, but any explanation is.
I had a son. I had a son born with blonde highlights and dark brown hair. He came in a C-section, sunny side up. He never followed the plan well. There was so much hair the hospital nurses stopped to stare. He was very popular. I had a son I first bathed in a sink in a hospital, my hands trembling for fear he'd break. I had a son with eyes so blue you'd swear you were looking at the sky. I had a son who would not take a bottle, but who would sleep through the night. I had a son who was a horrible napper. I had a son who was always small, but who made up for it in volume. He didn't cry often, but he yelped as soon as he was able, and often. I think he would have been quite a talker. I think about that all the time.
I had a son who liked to feed himself, though he never mastered the art. I had a son who did not like to stay still; I had a wiggle worm. I had a son who could work his way across a room one inchworm crawl at a time. I had a son who did not like pacifiers unless they came on the heads of animals.
I had a son who got sick. Small things at first. Vomit. A passing stomach bug. A quick trip to the ER. A few hits of zofran to send us on our way. I had a son who got much sicker, encephalitis masking a tumor. A tumor presaging cancer. ATRT, atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor. I spelled that wrong the first time I wrote here. I'd never heard of it. No one has. One tripped gene in one cell, one in a million. Like wet tissue paper growing faster and faster. Wet and soft means it grows fast, too quick to attain mass and density. Faster than the surgeons could work, and much faster than chemo. Too fast to even try the last.
I had a son who smiled through it all, who fought so hard it made my heart break. Who laughed after surgery and tried to play with his lines. He always smiled, and still rarely cried, though I cannot imagine the kind of pain he must have been in as the tumor grew and snaked down his spine. I had a son who made my heart break with pride. I could not have asked for a better one.
I had a son we buried in a poplar box, special order. Wearing a orange and blue striped polo. With his giraffes, like always.
I had a son I miss everyday. I have a son I will never forget, and who I will always love.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.