Friday, June 4, 2010
The day that Ben was born was the happiest day of my life. I remember sitting in bed with my newborn cradled in my lap. We looked into each other’s eyes and I remember thinking that I never knew a person could be this happy.
We called him Benjy when he was little. I kept a baby book for years documenting every milestone, every sweet and funny story. I had two more sons in the next few years and kept the baby books going for all of them. One of Ben’s baby book entries goes like this: Today Benjy announced that he was really good and really have (have rhyming with save). Took a moment to figure out “have” – I guess I must say “Hey you guys be good and behave” a lot!! “Have” (rhyming with save) is a new word for us now!!! All of my baby book entries sound SOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!!
A strange thing happened one day that I never forgot. I was sitting on a park bench watching my sons play and an old woman who I’m pretty sure was wearing a dark trench coat came up to me. She said one sentence. “These will be the happiest years of your life”, she said. I don’t know why but I answered, “I know”, and then she walked away. I guess if this was a book that scene would be the unmistakable foreshadowing part.
I have boxes of photographs documenting the childhood years. The boys loved animals, the woods and having adventures. They were like a little gang and Ben was the leader. Their collective energy seemed like way more than three boys. Ben went through a stage where he wrote his name on everything. You’d open a book and read “Ben was here” when you least expected it. B E N is carved into the side of the wooden dresser that was next to his bed.
As the story often goes, the teenage years were rough. Ben was head strong and a pusher of boundaries. Had he survived, those qualities could have been quite beneficial in his life. Risk taking and boldness are qualities seen in people who do grand things. One day when Ben was seventeen he came home with a bruised face. He had been walking through a neighborhood where he saw a man beating a dog. He yelled “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” I was so upset with him for putting himself in danger, for trying to be a hero in an impossible situation. That was my Ben.
Ben died when he was seventeen. I found him. I did CPR for a long time. I remember looking up to see my sons watching. They looked so frail and ghostly. All of this happened twenty years ago but it seems… it feels much closer than that. Life goes on, but for us it is like the road was abruptly interrupted in June of 1990. It took time to find the path again and when we did the territory was utterly foreign.
Sometimes I lie in bed and touch my fingers to the letters carved into the wooden dresser B E N. For me, it is like a slipstream, a portal to the other side.