To My First Son, Wherever He May Be, On His Birthday

I’m writing this today for all the parents out there who have lost beloved family members to life and its winding, sometimes dark, path. For my best friend, whose two sons walked away from their mother. For all the mothers and fathers whose children were lost to drugs or alcohol, and may still be fighting to reclaim their loved ones. For all those who don’t even know why they keep their silence, and all those too stubborn to break it. For all the sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters who have walked away from family members without truly thinking about what they’ve truly left in their absence. For they did not leave behind a hole, a void, an emptiness. They left behind broken hearts, shattered dreams, confusion, anger, sadness, but most of all, the passing of time that can never be regained.

Dear John;

My pregnancy came as a surprise, but I was so excited, even though it was untimely, to have been chosen to be your Momma.  I kept counting, and counting, and re-counting the days to your due date from the very moment I found out that you existed. While I’m sure it was disappointing to some of my family since I wasn’t married, and was young when you were conceived, I felt so much love and support when I least expected it. You were due on the 4

You were due on the 4th of July, and your Yankee Grandfather thought that was just grand. But you weren’t to be rushed. You took your time and waited, and waited until I was finally induced on the 20th of July. Of all my labors, yours was the hardest and longest, and my first experience in a hospital (which I hated – I felt so judged and shamed by the nursing staff). While things didn’t go exactly as planned for me, you were born in the middle of a wonderful thunderstorm, and you slept so peacefully; I didn’t want to put you down for a moment. I couldn’t stop kissing your tiny button nose, gently cupping your unbelievably tiny head in my hand, and letting your tiny hand grasp my pinky.

I loved being your mother. You inspired me. Every ear infection you ever had. Every sleepless night. Every sunrise dawning with you sleeping peacefully on my shoulder. Every time I had to leave you to go to work, wishing I could stay with you. Every worm we had to stop and look at the sidewalks when we learned to walk. Every Goodnight kiss. Every little hug. Every “I love you, Mommy.”

Being there for you when things got hard. Helping you with your homework. Praising you every step of the way. Telling you “over and over again, as my father had me, “You’re a good boy.” Giving you a solid foundation in life.

Watching you become a lifeguard and a swim instructor, and seeing the faces of the kids you taught, all smiling and laughing in your classes. The incredible sense of humor that I miss oh, oh, so much. Setting up your apartment when you left the nest to go to college. Taking you grocery shopping. Taking you shopping for a new ‘look’ and having so much fun because we knew the sales guy thought you were cute.  Loving every minute of it.

Being rejected on your birthday all those years ago when I drove to see you and take you to lunch. Finding someone else living in your apartment, with your belongings, some of my past gifts, and your cat. Not knowing why. Not understanding what had changed in the few days since we’d last talked. Being called a monster and a horrible mother by the stranger you were now living with. Being threatened by someone I never even met. Never knowing why.

Every year I ask myself the question: “Why?”

I never get an answer. God never calls to tell me. My Dad isn’t here to offer his wisdom. Nobody at all seems to know.

If this was written on paper, know that it would be stained with tears that won’t stop rolling down my cheeks and dripping off my face like so many raindrops. If you were here, we’d all be eating Swiss mocha cheesecake, and cracking jokes around the table, all the brothers together again.

I keep recalling how someone I knew died in the night after arguing with his wife the night before over something trivial, and the two things she kept repeating until the day she died: “I never got to say goodbye,” and, “I never got to say I was sorry.” I’ve told you never to let the sun go down on your anger because life is unpredictable.

Since I can’t see you, and I can’t call you, this is my birthday card to you. However much time passes, I will always be your mother. If I never see you again, I will always love you. Should I die before you come back to me, I forgive you. But most of all, I’m sorry for any and all ways I’ve wronged you.

Happy 25th to the only first child I’ll ever have.

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