Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Matthew is FOUR!

Darling Matthew,

Today you are FOUR. How swiftly these years, these halcyon days have flown by. I am so grateful to have been a part of it all and to have tucked away in my memory every precious moment with you.

Matthew, you are growing into such a wonderful little boy. Erm...big boy. You are bright and funny and as much as your non-stop chattering wears me out some days, I miss it when you're not here. Miss your questions and your constant "why's?" when you're at school and it's only Luke and I clattering about the house, waiting.

I love you more than all the tea in China
I love you more than all the stars in the sky
I love you more than all the bubbles in the bathtub
I love you more than you ask me, "Why?"

Thank you for asking tough questions that make me think long and hard about the world and our place in it. For remembering Uncle Andrew with such light and love and for missing him. How lovely to know that your heart accepts a cloud-filled, high-in-the-sky Heaven and that a God who watches over us pleases you, too.

Since you were born I have been slowly drawn back to the church of my own childhood - seeking comfort in the rituals that transcend both language and borders. I'm so happy to see that you've already developed a love of hymns and music and singing out with joyous abandon.

I love that you sing along with every song in the car, no matter how silly, random or sad. That certain pieces of music can bring you to tears is lovely too, albeit heartbreaking to see. You are a sensitive soul, Matthew James and the world needs more souls like you. Is lucky to have you.

Thank you for singing through supper and teaching a rapt Luke all the gestures and faces for "Five Yummy Apples." I am so happy that you're adjusting so well to school life and that you've formed such a close, warm bond with William, Sweet William. Together, you will have many, many adventures, ones I hope you'll share with me over milk and cookies upon your return.

I miss you when you're at school, my darling. Thrilled as I am to know that you're enjoying yourself and to have special one-on-one time with Luke, I miss your sweet laugh, your endless stories and seeing the world through your eyes. You have a sweetness about you - an innate need to please, to reach out, to care. Yesterday, even though you really, really wanted to play by yourself, you made sure to set aside some special toys for your brother so that he could play by your side. Cracks my heart - both the desire to be on your own and the way you quietly show him that he is loved and special.

I love that despite all this growing up business, you still crawl into bed with me each morning, seeking heat and cuddles. I love that you often fall asleep with your hand on my face, as you've done from early on. Stalling method or not, I love that you often save your best, most-involved tales for the quiet of your bedroom after dark. Love how you recite with me:

Matthew is his Mama's very heart, his Daddy's pride and joy!
Matthew is Nanny's treasure and Papa's best big boy!

I hope you know that they're not just pretty words at bedtime, Matthew. They are truth in rhyme. You are indeed my very heart and Daddy is so, so proud of you. You are Nanny's blessed treasure and her every joy. When you were born, she came alive again and you bring all sorts of magic to her days simply by being. You. Papa too - you make him laugh so much Matthew and have given him another chance to play and frolic and get dirty. Another chance.

Yes, your defiance and sassy mouth challenge my sanity some days, Matthew. I see so much of me in your petulant stance, your slamming-door temper and the proud upward tilt of your chin when you're in trouble. I see me and it shocks me, infuriates me, makes me wary, worry, wilt...and love you even more.

On this your fourth birthday, I promise to tell you "Yes!" more often and to let your pour your own juice for breakfast. To spend less time "getting through" and more time simply being - with you. I promise to yell less, listen more. To give you space as you need it and to always be a safe place to land.

I am so proud to be your Mummy and thank God every day for the wonder that is you. Thank you for choosing me.

I love you.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Because There is Pink...

There's a little girl at Matthew's school - she's about 7, maybe 8. ALWAYS wears pink. I've seen her marching by with her class, in the yard, milling about: laughing.

Always laughing.

Her cheeks are pale though. And a little bit puffy. Still, she is gorgeous.

At pick-up this afternoon, I watched her walking out to her Mum's minivan, having tumbled from the school laughing, without her hat. It's pink, of course. And usually covers her head quite well because until today, I hadn't noticed that she is entirely bald.

"Leukemia", a mother I don't know breathed into the air as she moved past me. "So sad."

I watched Pinky - watched her amble happily about, watched her mother, gazing at her daughter with the gentlest smile on her face. Saw Pinky's brother draw alongside the van and get a good-natured swat from his sister for making them wait and then they were climbing in and then they were gone.

Guess who Pinky's brother is?


William, Sweet William.

(Insert not-yet-created emoticon here: rueful, contemplative, sad smiley)

And sometimes, my friends, the universe delivers a swift and just kick to those of us who might be complacent and a teensy bit too smug about the world and our place in it. (read: Me)

Kiss your kids. Hug your kids. Thank GOD that ours are well and whole. Thank GOD that the ones who aren't but who are surviving, whose brothers are called William, continue to laugh because it's sunny, because there is pink, because there is life. Because.

That Kahlil Gibran Guy was Right...

"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth..."

Smart dude. Although clearly, he never had to leave a Matthew at Junior Kindergarten, or else he'd have written something with little more....angst.

Today is Monday - a school day - and I expected tears and tummy aches because despite the success of Day One, on school days, Matthew is now seized by a panicked and uncontrollable need to do an "emergency poo" shortly before we leave the house.

As soon as the school comes into view, the tears begin to flow and Matthew often forgets how to walk - poof, just like that. It would funnier and perhaps a bit touching if it were someone else's son, you know?

In any case, this morning I was ready and organized: I fed him straight away and nagged him to eat it BEFORE we leave the house, which he did. I helped him get dressed so that he could still watch TV and not miss a thing - multitasking is not on Matthew's personal "learn-to-do" list. I didn't holler, not once. I drank coffee. I remembered to feed the boys vitamins.

Made it out the door with shoes on and no last-minute poos. The brisk walk was enjoyable and tearless, save a clumsy tumble into a shrub which was funny and touching especially because it was my son. As we neared the playground gate, Matthew suddenly perked up. Stretched up onto his tiptoes and smiled at a taller boy alighting from a minivan.

"That's William!" he crowed, grinning hugely now. I've been hearing about William. William is NOT invisible. William is not little. William is funny. William plays with Matthew at recess. William doesn't use a soother for sleeping, imagine that, Mummy?

William stood patiently, waiting for Matthew, but Matthew came down with a swift case of shy and turned into my leg. Still grinning.

I smiled at William and motioned him to carry on. "We'll go around this way and see you in there, ok?" And William, sweet William, nodded and smiled and then I too, was lost.

"William has a lovely face, doesn't he?" I mused aloud, not really expecting an answer.

Matthew: He has a lovely smile, too, Mummy. He's nice too, just like his smile.

The bell rang then and I braced myself - normally, I spend the better part of five minutes then peeling Matthew from my leg, offering fake-cheerful platitudes and a forced smile.

Not so this morning.

This morning, once the bell stopped clanging, Matthew hurried over to heave his knapsack onto his back and burrowed his way into the line up, next to William. Sweet William (whose elbow grazes the very top of Matthew's head) gave Matthew a cheery "Hey, Matthew!" and then looked over at me (speechless, proud...trying not to tear up and have to be peeled from Matthew's leg) and nodded, as if to say, "I got him. He's ok now, Mama."

And off they went, William, Sweet William's arm draped casually across Matthew's back, guiding him into the school. Matthew never looked back, not once.

Me? I cried all the way home.

"When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. "

Monday, September 14, 2009

For "Bong Hitters United"

This journey to goodbye has not been easy.
The drive to my parents' home was difficult and sad. On Friday afternoon, while my sons slept in the back seat, I wrestled my own mind in the front - for suddenly, I had realized that while Andrew's friends would be in Lakefield in a few short hours, he would not.

And it broke me entirely. In some deep, dark corner of my mind, I'd been harbouring some hope that he might magically appear because his truest friends were gathering. Hoped, wished, insanely, that the past seven months had not passed, and that he hadn't either.

On the other hand, I looked forward to seeing BHU - (yes, the name absolutely defines them) because they loved him and grieved his loss, too. Because so many of his life's experiences were tied up with them and I was greedy to share, to hear, to take their memories of him and absorb them as my own.

And I love them all, for all of it - they GOT him and were just as eager to share the man they loved as I was. I laughed SO hard as they shared tale after tale of adolescent antics and all the hysterically stupid, stupidly dangerous and utterly illegal crap my brother pulled.

He was naturally charming and disarming - somehow, he drew like people to him. BHU captured my heart completely - even though I wondered aloud how they EVER came together, as a group, so different they all are individually. Except...not. It was as though, listening to them, I could almost hear his voice, see his smile. It makes missing him easier to bear.

My parents had created tiny urns filled with Andrew's ashes, for each of his friends, who (I think) gratefully accepted these small "tokens" of the man they knew. I know my Dad struggled with the task, as he'd not realized that ashes are not sifted soft. Instead, they contain bits of bone and gristle - tiny pieces of his son.

As the "ceremony" began with a gentle prayer, BHU stood quietly at Andrew's Garden, begun that morning by my Dad and my husband, finished by all of them - a wonderfully touching thing to see, to know.

One by one, we took a scoop of the leftover ashes - tossing them onto the freshly-turned soil. Silent. Weeping. Remembering. Matthew and Luke too, had a turn and we all laughed as Luke turned to ash onto himself - typical. Of Luke. And of Andrew, the uncle he'll never know, but whose toddler self whispers past when Luke grins a certain way. Someone dumped a beer on top, which was perfect, so the rest of us did, too.

All afternoon, they stayed by that garden. Laughing, drinking, crying. They played with Matthew: delighted him and me by appeasing his bossy, four-year old ways, pretending to be passengers on his invisible train to Denver. Rolled Luke down the hill, watched for tumbles, and checked in every now and again, wondering how I was, how we all were. In so many ways, BHU became my brother - at his best, happy and relaxed, hanging with friends and family.

More stories - most funny, some sad - lead us long into the evening and far, far into the night. We sat around an awesome bonfire, drinking too much, but weeping no more. Andrew loved fire and I was tickled to see that his (foster) sister does, too. She kept the fire going strong as the others kept my Dad and I in stitches, aghast, lost...enfolded.

Today I think this:

Andrew was blessed, despite his demons. In choosing these friends, he showed an innate wisdom - they are loyal to one another and will now guard his memory just as fiercely. They are funny and quick and haven't let life's sometimes tragic lessons get in the way of their good time or their appreciation for the moment and each other.

They are everything Andrew was...and will never be again. I am blessed and so thankful to know them all. May 24. See you all then - forever.


P.S. Fuck fishing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Andrew's Ashes...

Tomorrow, we will scatter my brother's ashes over a specially-chosen spot on my parents' property. We will be joined by Andrew's childhood friends and his foster sister, affectionately called BHU, the lot of them.

I miss my brother. Am happy to have his best, truest ones surround us for the ceremony, but oh, it makes my heart ache. If only he'd stayed as true to them, perhaps...


In any case, this I enclosed in a card for my parents - I feel weak and inneffectual for them, feel like I can't do enough, keep messing up the tasks given. Here then, my offering:

“Mummy,” asked Dawd at bedtime “Is Heaven close to here?”
Mummy thought it over, and whispered in his ear:

“Heaven is a far-off spot, where those we loved now roam,
“It’s higher than our favourite hill, where trees sway to and fro.

“Higher than the airplanes, that circle overhead:
Higher than the stars which shine while you sleep in your bed.”

“Is Uncle Andrew up there now?” asked Dawd, tucked into his bed.
“How come he’s up there far away and not down here, instead?”

“God needed more strong angels, my curious little gnome,
to help Him move the heavy stuff, and so He called Andrew Home.”

“But Andrew is your brother, right? Like Menace and me, for you.
Does God know that you miss him and that he was your Sweet Bamboo?”

“God knows that he’s my brother, yes. And He wants me to be okay.
So He’ll make sure that Andrew hears when I whisper, “I miss you today.”

Dawd thought then about Menace, sleeping soundly across the room,
and worried that God would ask for him too, and then what would Dawd do?

“Does God only want little brothers?” Dawd’s impish face was grim.
“Menace is mine ‘cause I’m bigger, and you said that I get to keep him!”

Mummy laughed softly and gathered him up, until he was snug in her arms.
“I’m certain that God sent your brother to you, to keep him safe from harm!”

“And God doesn’t ask for just brothers. He needs Grandpas and little girls, too.
Because for all tasks done in Heaven, only the best hearts will do.

There are prayers to be answered and sweet songs to sing, as miracles wait to be born.
There are angels who flit about dancing while others play bright golden horns.

There are lists to be checked and gates to be opened and clouds to be moved all about,
Uncle Andrew is happily moving it all and making God laugh, I’ve no doubt.

He’ll be free and whole and happy, living high up in the clouds,
and he’ll know how much we miss him, when we say his name aloud.”
Elizabeth Schillings-McLennan 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother!

Wrapped up in my own angst about Matthew starting kindergarten, I forgot to consider Luke.

Wee, chortling, do-whatever-Matthew-does Luke.

This morning, when Matthew took his teacher's hand and tossed a cheery, "Bye, Mummy!" over his shoulder, Luke started to cry. Baffled, he twisted around in his stroller to stutter, "Where's Maffew? Where's Maffew, Mummy?"


All the way home, trudging up Victoria in the cool morning sunshine, he sniffled and repeated his brother's name. Being me, I joined him in the sniffling bit and together we made our way home without Matthew, one of only a handful of times we've been anywhere NOT as a threesome.

Luke cried at playgroup too, when he realized that I was heading to another room to seek the kind of support only a roomful of other Mums can provide (and cookies) and that he was once again, without his brother.

He did rally though and we both spent a fun morning. After lunch, I packed him into the car, expecting him to fall asleep. Nope.

"Lukey, it's time for nap now, sweetheart."

"No nap, Mummy. Me no nap!" Luke crossed his arms, resolute. "We go Maffew?"

Cra-ck went my heart.

"We'll get Matthew at 2:30, bug. AFTER nap."

"Hmph!" More emphatic arm-crossing, with a pouty lip for good measure.

Li'l boog didn't nap. He fell a bunch and whined a bit, but he did.not.nap. Until I popped him in the stroller for the journey back to school. And out he went.

By 3, we were home again, all three. Matthew hurled himself onto the couch with his precious gucky (soother) and promptly fell asleep, while I pulled sleeping Luke from his stroller, thinking I'd tiptoe him upstairs for an hour or so.

But, as soon as I stepped through the door, his eyes popped open: "Maffew! Maffew?" and he lurched in my arms, head turning every which way until he spied his brother. MATTHEW! Big grins and wriggles for down - he raced over and stood, just grinning.

About 1/2 hour later, I wandered into the family room with a snack for my sleep-deprived, but happy youngest and witnessed a most tender scene:

Matthew's gucky had fallen from his mouth and Luke was ever so carefully, gently-gently easing the gucky back into Matthew's mouth. Done, he gave Matthew's forehead a soft pat and settled himself down on the floor nearby. He would wait.


Life with Leprechauns doesn't get any more perfect than that. I am blessed, indeed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Halcyon Days...

Dear World,

Tomorrow, my beloved son begins Junior Kindergarten. At month's end, he will turn four. Four years. Gone. Poof.

I was here for all it, World. For every moment, every first, every word, tear, laugh, smile. And still, I ache for more. More time to BE with him - reading, singing, laughing. More time to watch him grow into the wonderful imp that I knew he would be. More time to bask in his cheeky grin and endless chatter.

Summer's end crept up so stealthily - all the special trips I'd imagined, sepia-washed moments I thought I'd capture on film...most didn't happen. I wanted to mark the end of this magical time, when he has been all mine - only mine - indelibly. Wanted to create for him, and for me, a lasting and powerful memory of this moment: when I will carefully hand him out into the universe, a gift.

Instead, I hollered at him before dinner, for shoving his brother. We ate tuna casserole for supper - typical Tuesday fare around here, nothing special or different. Instead of playing a game after Luke had gone to sleep, I hustled him downstairs to watch TV with Daddy, so that I could rush out for groceries. A quick kiss and a "go to bed when Daddy tells you," and off I went.

And tomorrow, off he goes.

I'm happy for him, World. I am. He's ready for school and new friends. Ready to begin carving out his own place and discovering who he is besides Mama's Heart and Luke's big brother. He is lively and engaging and curious - he will, I hope, make his teacher fall a tiny bit in love with him.

But he is also sensitive and sassy-mouthed. Belligerent when it suits him and stubborn when it suits no one. He can be loud and given to ear-piercing shrieks at inappropriate times - just like his Mama. I hope that he learns to curb it before I did.

I hope he dances, like I never could. I hope he sings often and with joyful abandon. I hope someone else can teach him to tie his shoes. I want him to love every. single. moment.

So yes, he's ready. But I am not.

I am not ready to leave these halycon days behind. Not ready to let him falter and fumble through friendships of his own making, not ones orchestrated and organized by me, usually because I like So-and-So's Mummy. I am not ready to hear of discoveries and stories and new sights that don't include me. Not ready for him to fall a tiny bit in love with his teacher, instead of staying entirely in love with me.

Give me the strength to take his trusting hand in mine and walk him two blocks west on Victoria to an entirely new and awesome adventure. Give me the words to soothe his worries and make it a happy day for both of us. Let us part with smiles, not tears, at least until I'm a block away and he can no longer see my face.

Be kind, World. For tomorrow, I offer you my very heart. His name is Matthew.