When I asked you what I should write for the blog post on your birthday, Tommy, you smiled a bit and then said, “You should write about how many friends I’ve made this year. I have, like, ten new friends!'”
You’ve always been like this. Joyful and happy, unaffected by the worries of the world. But that does not mean you’ve been unaware of those around you. On the contrary, you can see what’s happening with a certain clarity. It’s always been that way.
When you were 3 years old and you lost your dad Shawn, you didn’t cry. Maybe you were just too young. Maybe you would be untouched by grief. But that was not exactly the case. You needed more of me, back then, though I’m sure you didn’t know why. You didn’t appear to grieve Shawn, not in a concrete way. Somehow, it seemed, you were untouched by your his death, but not by my grief. It wasn’t that you didn’t love your dad, but rather that you were just too young to really understand it. One day, he was gone.
But I was still here, with you. And you knew that I was sad.
You didn’t really know what to do in those early years. You were still such a baby – still in diapers, still unable to voice a lot of what you needed. But you knew when I was sad, and you’d try anything you could to make me feel better. You weren’t scared of a new classroom or a new family who was picking you up after school. You rolled with it all.
It’s the opposite about how I felt in those early years – I was scared of everything, afraid of letting my true self out there, afraid of death, of getting hurt, of everything.
But you weren’t. You were too young, I figured. But the years went on, and you never changed. Now you are 8, older than Austin was when he lost his father and almost the same age that Claire was. When they were 8 years old, I saw both of them hurt. I saw them worry. But that’s never been you, Tommy.
You weren’t sad for you. You were only sad when you knew I was sad.
Maybe that’s just you. Maybe you’d be like this with or without loss, maybe you’re just hard-wired to see joy. When I think of you, Tommy, I often think about this phrase Chris likes to say in Spanish:
A todo lo que fue: gracias. A todo lo que ha de ser: si.
To all that was, thank you. To all that is to be, yes.
You like to say yes, Tommy.
When you come home after school, you are often alone. Your older sister has cheer practice and your older brother has run off with his friends. You bound through the door and see us, sitting on the couch, writing or working or doing whatever it is that we do. “Mom! Dad!” you yell, and then we open our arms and you fall into them, giggling as we snuggle with you.
You are not worried about the world around you. You know there are things that happen, even very bad things. If I’m worried about a neighbor or a friend, you often ask me if that person will die. But that knowledge – that bad things happen – doesn’t worry you, not in the way I’d once imagined. You accept it. But you also see the possibility in the world. You see the things that could be good first.
I don’t ever tell you, “thank you” though maybe I should. Thank you for the times that you snuggled with me when I needed a warm body next to me. Thank you for the way you giggled every morning when I tickled you awake in those early year of my widowhood. Thank you for the way you ran across the elementary school field when I picked you up at school in those early years of widowhood. I needed love then, and you gave it to me. Thank you for the way that you loved Chris, and made him your dad. We all needed that joy then, and you gave it to us.
To all that has been, thank you.
And now, for your future as an 8-year-old boy, I wish that you’ll keep believing only one thing about this life we have. It’s something you already do, something I know you’ll keep doing every day of your life:
To all that is to be, yes.
Happy birthday to my baby boy.
Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.