We'll be getting on an airplane on Friday night. It's something I was never quite sure we'd do as a family. Atticus had his accessories, as I thought of them. He had fewer and fewer as he aged (oh god, how is it that he never saw age 5?). He had gotten rid of his PICC line, which had two lumens--one for lipids and one for TPN, and they each came with an IV pump and a chorus of beeps. And we had returned his suction machine, whose sound Atticus always hated, even though it was his life-saver those first few months. He only wore his pulse oximeter at night. He only needed oxygen when he was sick. He didn't really need his feeding pump--I would run fluids at night, but I could have given him larger amounts at a time (bolus) instead. He didn't even need his walker anymore, although he still needed a stroller for long outings. And a cooling vest if it was hot, and a sippy cup at all times. The thought of going through security with him (and his special food and accessories) was completely overwhelming. He would have liked the part where everyone took off their shoes (my Diddle Dumpling...), but he would have hated the lines and would not stand for the X-ray machines, much less the wavy wand. And the airplane would have, in all likelihood, been a total and utter disaster. So he never went on a plane, never flew. (So many nevers.)
Last summer, we went on our one and only family vacation. We went to California, to visit my sister and her family, and for the boys to meet their paternal grandfather, aunt, and cousins. We drove. We had such a wonderful time. They saw the ocean for the first time. I am so, so thankful that I was able to show Atticus the ocean.
And that's where we're going again--to see my sister. She has a new baby, a cousin Atticus never got to meet. It hurts. It hurts so much to think of going back there, to a place we were so happy. Near my sister's home was a completely accessible all-abilities playground. It helped spearhead the fight I was occupied with most of the summer and fall: getting something similar near us.
For me, the thought of going back is unbearable. And yet, I'm doing it. I'm doing it for Damien and Everett. Everett has been "packing" every day since we told him--which was about 6 weeks ago. And Damien has been talking about it, asking questions about how airplanes fly and how we're getting to the airport and how the car seats will get there. My curious, practical boy. They loved California, and have been wanting to go back since we left. I hope they can be happy there this trip. I'm pretty sure they will--they are so much more resilient than I. They seem to be able to hold their memories of Atticus with the same joy with which they were formed. I'm jealous.
But still, they are affected. I think my grief (and anxiety and depression) are harming them, but they feel the loss of Atticus deeply. After he died, they began hugging each other goodbye every time we drop Damien off at school. I think of how Everett took a day-time bath with Atticus and then went down for his nap (something else he's lost) and what he must have seen and felt when he woke up to find me and Atticus gone...and Atticus never came home. Damien--oh Damien, it hurts me so much to think about this, to say it. Damien watched him go from tired but seemingly ok to unconscious, in the space of only minutes. Damien watched me make the 911 call. Damein will sometimes ask, using words I myself used to the operator--"Mom, what did it mean that his eyes were rolling back? Mom, what did it mean that he was sucking for air? What did it mean when Atticus's head fell over?" Damien watched me giving Atticus mouth-to-mouth. (His heart was still beating. Thank god Damien did not have to watch me--or anyone--attempting to restart Atticus's heart. The sheer force required, it is so incredibly violent.) But he did see me clutching Atticus in my arms, running barefoot through the snow out to meet the EMTs. He saw them put Atticus into the ambulance and drive away.
I didn't get back from the hospital until after Damien and Everett were asleep. They were together in Everett's bed. I was unable to sleep that night, but was in and out of their room. I was there when Damien woke up. The very first thing he said was, "Is Atticus all better?" And I had to say no.
Damien and Everett loved each other before Atticus died. But they have both become more clingy, with me and with each other. They will often share a bed, and snuggle up close to one another. They tell each other that they love each other, little voices saying, "Je t'aime!" in the morning and "I love you" in the afternoons. It is adorable and it makes me so thankful they have each other, but it hurts too, because I know part of it is spurred by them knowing--in a way little boys should not have to know--that brothers aren't permanent. That you can wake up to discover your whole world has shrunk by one person, and what a very big loss that is. It breaks my heart that this happened to them.