18 April 2012

The 18th

It's the 18th.

I didn't realize until I was already holding Austen and my midwife was stitching me up: Ewan and Austen were both born on the 18th of the month. I was exhausted from labor and giddy with a newborn in my tired arms. At the time, the fact didn't strike me as bitter in the least.

A few neighborhood girls stopped by last night. They're in the fourth grade or so, and I invited them in to collect some of the non-perishable food items they were soliciting for a food bank dedicated to single mothers. They always gush over Austen's cuteness and growth. As one followed me into the kitchen, she pointed to a black and white photo on the fridge.


It was Ewan.

She asked who he was and why he had a canula for oxygen going into his nose. I explained that that was Austen's big brother, and that he died when he was 16 days old, 16 months before Austen was born. She stared at the photo as I explained, and without any guile said how cute he was and how sad it was that he had died.

Yes, it is very sad for all of us, I explained.

And now it is the 18th again. We mark the day that Austen is 3 months old, the day her brother would have been 19 months old. On the same day, we celebrate life and remember what might-have-been. What could-have-been or would-have-been, but never-will-be.

If my explanation to the girl was all that matter-of-fact, it's not because it doesn't still hurt. I might not break down at the mention of his name, or at recalling a particular moment in his life. It's just a weight I've gotten used to carrying, an anniversary observed today for the 19th time. I've had a bit of practice.

And I celebrate them both today.