My first baby and my last baby, February 2005
Years ago Whit remarked, in his now-classic casually offhand yet startlingly insightful way, that while Grace gets to have all the firsts in our family, he gets to have all the lasts.
And they just keep coming, firsts and lasts, piled on top of each other in a pile that grows so high it teeters and sometimes threatens to swamp me.
Last week at bedtime Grace was wistful and sad. I scooted into her bed next to hear and leaned back against her pillow. I asked her what was wrong. She looked at me and let her tears come. “Why does it have to go so fast? I don’t want to grow up. There are only one and a half years left of my childhood.”
“Wait a second!” My breath caught in my throat. “What? Why do you say that?”
“Well until I’m a teenager.”
Holy shit. I looked at her face, speechless. I smoothed her hair behind her ear and watched her big, deep brown eyes as they studied me. How many first are left? I know there are so many ahead but there are also so many behind us. So many firsts we’ll never have again. I looked up at a self-portrait she made at age 3 in nursery school, when she was in the Yellow Room, which hangs over her bed. Time telescoped and collapsed on itself. I felt dizzy as all the hours, nights, weeks, and years that I have spent in this room with Grace, and all that we will never have back sudden filled the room, pressing in on me, and I couldn’t breathe.
The next morning I woke Whit up, and as I do every morning I knelt next to his bed and watched him for a few moments. His entire life was visible in his sleeping face. The scar by his eye from stitches on Christmas Eve 2010, which marked his second Christmas Eve in the Children’s Hospital ER in six years. The blond hair that had so surprised me when he arrived. The profile which I recognized from his ultrasound image, so many years ago.
So many lasts. When I got Whit a new pair of sneakers last week I cried getting rid of the old ones, thinking: I won’t ever buy size 1 Nikes again. In nine months I won’t have any children in the single digits. Whit’s years as a Mite in hockey are over now.
The lasts are especially poignant because he is the last last.
I know. I know. There are so many new horizons to explore, so, so many firsts, experiences and adventures to share. I know. But still. There are also so many lasts. So many hours, days, weeks, and years that I can never get back.
This is truly the story I can’t stop telling, the song I can’t stop singing, the ringing bell whose echoes I can’t stop hearing.
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