Thursday, November 16, 2006

Andrew's Thanksgiving

I know it's a bit early, but I'm leaving out of town for a week and don't want to bug a guest poster during the holiday and I've got to start packing one of these minutes and tomorrow is going to be filled to the brim with stuff to do (big breath), so I'm going to write something that's been on my mind.


I have been thinking of Andrew a lot lately. This is unusual for me. I have a talent for disassociation, "compartmentalizing my life" is how I like to think of it. My sister says it's one of the many benefits of having a dysfunctional family. The painful things get put in the we'll-deal-with-that-later compartment. It's cheaper than therapy and quite effective most days. Sometimes the compartment gets opened and the issues decide to crawl out and stretch their legs for a spell. One of them has been lounging on my living room sofa--metaphorically speaking.

Andrew is the son who died, on the date I cannot even name and my mind won't let me remember (at the end of June sometime), nine and 1/2 years ago. He is my oldest son's identical twin.

Over the last decade, while Andrew's twin had been struggling, my mind would stray. I would think dark thoughts like: I can barely handle this, what would I have done with two? Would Andrew be the same way (there is a 70% chance of autism with identical twins, maybe higher)? How could I have handled it? Would Andrew have been blind and brain-damaged and crippled or worse had he survived? How would I have made it? So many days, I felt as if I would break. I couldn't imagine what I would do if I had a debilitated Andrew, too.

Andrew knew ten days of non-stop pain and torment. The first time I held him was as he died. The first time I held him, I only wanted to run away and take him, have him all to myself and just rock him. Instead, I was surrounded by white walls, and a sterile room, professional, busy people, and too many sad family members. I was beyond distraught. I felt like I was floating in a void surrounded by crushing heaviness with an aching chasm quaking through my heart. I know that seems contradictory, but it's true. It's as if my essence was concentrated into one atom yet my existence had come untethered from life. My will to live hung by a tiny thread.

Now, as Andrew's twin brother emerges and develops, and I am doing better, my thoughts are different. That blanket of grief has peeled away over the years to be replaced by a sweetness and abundance of heart and spirit. My life feels like a chock-full cornucopia and I want to share it with Andrew.

Andrew would be on the top bunk with a guy who imagines turning into the Hulk and loves the X-men and Avengers and all the good guys. He would be wrestling with his father and brothers. He would be teasing his sister. He would be sitting at the dinner table encouraging his baby bro to make farting noises. He would meet Mickey Mouse and touch a dolphin, but better yet, he'd be doing it with family who adores him.

He would be watching the leaves change and fall. He would feel the wind on his face and smile, like his baby brother did just today. He'd know the pleasure of watching the neighbor's white cat saunter past the window each morning, stopping to lounge and very deliberately lick her right paw while coyly sneaking a peak through the window. He would whoop at football games and get lost in opera like his twin (or at least I imagine he would). He would be alive.

In the midst of thinking about Andrew, the breathtaking wonderfulness of just being alive sinks into me. In imagining Andrew experiencing these blessings, I've had the opportunity to take stock of my blessings. There are too many to list. Have you seen a child discover a ray of light pierce the shadow on a floor--putting his hand in, then out, crawling around it, trying to make it move, smiling with delight when it flickers. Have you seen that wonder? How do you capture all of God's blessings in a list? It's impossible.

This Thanksgiving my table is full. My life is richly blessed. Andrew is so much a part of these blessings. I wish he were here in person to touch the light--at least where I could see him.


Sean Carter said...

Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness and be with all the beautiful people that life has blessed us with...and on this note i'd request you to visit my Thanksgiving Blog sometime and share the warmth and joy of this wonderful celebration.

MaxedOutMama said...

Dr M, you are a real human being in the fullest sense, and a blessing to us all.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Beautiful post.

Today I wrote, "Why we envy the mythical Bob Cratchit is because the values of a real home and the comforts that real home brings, are eternal...In fact, what is real home and comfort becomes even more valuable with the passage of time- our lives, our experiences all add texture and meaning to ‘home.’ Those that have been fortunate enough to have had that can attest to it. Those that have not been so blessed, see it clearly- like the cancer patient who sees the healthy person. That person understands more than most, the value of the gift of health."

Clearly, you and your family have a real home.

Dr. Melissa said...

Thank you, both, for your kind words. I do miss him so!

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I know your loss was great and I am so happy for you that you've found a way to continue on.

Someone gave this poem to me. I'll share it here with you.

High up on a windy hill,
there's a special place,
that waits there still,
where childhood dreams,
from days long past,
kept in the heart,
come true at last.

Matthew said...

Beautiful post sis. It makes me want to pro-create! :-)

9 1/2 years. Hard to believe. I remember that day as if it were yesterday, and yet, most days it seems like a lifetime ago. I have never felt broken hearted, but that day I felt broken. I cannot wait to see Andrew again.

As David says in 2 Samuel 12:22
And he said, "While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who can tell whether the Lord F29 will be gracious to me, that the child may live?' 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."

Anonymous said...

I, too lost a child about 12 years ago. I have three other children now but think of my firstborn every day. I wonder what she would look like and what her personality would be. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family and for the short amount of time I had with my first child.

Anonymous said...

Although it's not at all the same thing, my youngest son's twin died in vitro. Both he and his older brother are both autistic.