I took Damien and Everett to their pediatrician (who is also my cousin and dear friend) for their well-checks. It's the first time they've had an appointment together...and the first time I've been there since Atticus died. I did Damien and Atticus's appointments together whenever possible, and everything was full of echos of what was and will never be again. Damien and Everett both stood on the scale to get weighed. Although Atticus could have stood by himself this year (which he couldn't at his 4-year check), he wouldn't have held still long enough for the scale to take a reading. I would have, once again, had to hold him while the MA weighed us both, and then get on and have her weigh me and subtract that to get his weight. Which was always embarrassing, and this year would have been humiliating (but hey, my scale got destroyed in the fire along with most of my clothes, so that's a reality I haven't had to face these past months). And it breaks my heart that it didn't happen. And Damien and Everett were measured, and I had zero worries that they might not have grown "enough". And waiting was easy. And the appointment took hardly any time, since I had no additional questions and left with no additional referrals.
Just the way things "should" be, the easy-breezy visits other parents have always had. Except, of course, for when I cried, and when we talked about how the boys are handling their grief (surprisingly well, and yes, they're in therapy), and when the "Bright Futures!" handouts made me stop breathing for a minute or two.
I began celebrating the anniversaries of my twins' NICU homecomings without realizing it--the days themselves (2/14/12 and 4/1/12) were of course celebrations of each boy. And then the memories carried over to the next year. It felt right, for each of them to have a "special day", since they had to share a birthday.
For the last five years, April First has been a celebration of Atticus. It has also been something deeper, something I'm only realizing now that he's gone and things will never be right again: it was a celebration of Wholeness. Of everything being the way it should. My entire little family under one roof, the way we should be, the way we would be, I naively assumed, until Damien moved out. I got to hold both of my children together in my arms, which I'd never been able to do in the NICU. (By the time they let me hold Atticus, Damien had been moved to a different room, since he required much less care.)
We were under quarantine--it had been a late year for RSV and Damien and especially Atticus were not as strong as most babies. In fact, I hadn't yet received the ok to let Damien sleep until he woke himself up--I had to wake him every 3 hours to eat, and when he took bottles instead of nursing (which was often at this point, with him being a preemie and me being gone so much of the day with Atticus at Primary's), we added formula to my breast milk to give him extra calories per ounce. And now he's off the charts in terms of both height and weight, so clearly that's no longer an issue. But I digress.
My grandparents both have April birthdays--the 4th and the 6th--and that year, they threw a huge party to celebrate my grandfather turning 85. I was told to stay home, and even though I wanted to show off my beautiful boys, I did so with zero regrets. I had had a difficult relationship with both my grandparents for quite some time. When I told my grandmother in the spring of 2011 that I had miscarried, things slowly started to get better. She too had lost wanted babies. And my twins were their first great-grandchildren. They visited them in the NICU, and then, when Damien was home and Atticus wasn't, my grandmother would sometimes tend Damien, so I could go to the hospital. And when Atticus came home, well. This was an all-hands-on-deck time. I literally could not leave the room Atticus was in (and moving him from room to room was a feat worthy of an ancient Greek hero, so I did it as little as possible). Because of his cleft palate, he couldn't form suction. Holding his binky in his mouth was the perfect job for my grandmother. She came over 3-5 times a week. She was nervous at first, but she concealed it better than most. I never got the impression that she (or my grandfather) ever thought of Atticus as "less than". And oh, how that mattered.
This year, my grandparents are throwing a huge party to celebrate my grandfather turning 90. It's on Saturday...the first. Atticus Day. I'm not going. I feel guilty about this, as both of their health is much worse than it was (they were?) five years ago. And because of all the time my grandmother spent holding Atticus. And the love they gave, and the shift in our relationship. But I can't do it. I just can't. There would be people there I haven't seen since Atticus's service. There would be people there who did not come to his service and would want to give me their condolences. There would be the pressure of making sure Damien and Everett (my bright-futured boys) behave themselves at the restaurant. There would be the pressure of not completely losing it in front of them. I am not up to it.
Instead, I have three beautiful friends coming in from New York, New Jersey, and Washington State. They understand that this won't be a fun visit. They are coming on purpose, to support me on Atticus Day. To be an audience for Damien and Everett's antics and smile and applaud when I can't. To give me hugs. To hold me while I cry. To listen to my memories of Atticus. To share how much he mattered to them. I am so, so grateful to have friends like these. But it is still going to be an impossible weekend. Because Atticus will never be coming home again, and my life will never be whole without him.