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Brother

October 22, 2009

This baby kicks and wiggles.  It’s marvelously comforting; it makes me feel lucky and happy.  It also reminds me so much of the way her brother kicked – low in my belly, gentle nudges growing more emphatic as the weeks go on.  I wish I’d memorized the way Teddy kicked so that I could know, clearly and precisely, how the kicks are different, how they’re the same.  I wish I’d memorized every moment I had with him.

I keep reliving the days when Teddy was inside me through these days with Dot.  Is that fair?  She’s the one who is kicking me now, this separate and unique individual.  Doubtless she kicks and wiggles to her own rhythms, but she reminds me of her brother, the brother she’ll never know.  Or maybe she already knows him better than I do.

My brother is just a bit over a year younger than I am.  Mom laughs and points out that this is how she learned that nursing mothers really can conceive, despite myths to the contrary.  We tumbled through toddlerhood together, sporting for many years near-identical haircuts, sharing toys and time and attention.

I worry about how I’ll parent Dot, if I get to parent her.  The usual and expected worries – what do I do when she gets sick or sad, how do I teach her to be confident and (within the bounds of reason) safe?  What if I feed her wrong things, lose my temper, dress her funny?  I worry a wee bit obsessively over whether or not she’s really okay, will be okay, will survive.  And, when I get past that particular terror, I worry about how to tell her about her brother, her older brother who should have been her playmate and conspirator.

My brother joined the BB Gun team when he was, I think, eight or nine years old.  They went on bus trips and shot at targets, and when he came home he would tell me all of the dirty jokes he’d heard on the bus, and then he’d tell me (if he knew) why they were funny.  We sat up past our bedtimes laughing, thrilled by the certaintly that we were breaching some carefully guarded bastion of adult knowledge.  Who will tell Dot about off-color jokes and explain the punch lines to her until she giggles?

I worry about the unfairness of it, tying her to a brother spirit, bringing her into a family with so many memories of and so much longing for someone who isn’t here.  She is and will be her own person, but she’s also, through no fault of her own, a mirror who (through no fault of my own) will show me glimpses of what could have been.  Will her first steps, first words, her naptimes and school pictures all be haunted?  And, if they are, what can I do to make it a friendly haunting?  If Teddy is sometimes her shadow, is this a blessing or a burden, or both?

If Teddy were here, doing one-year-old boy things, I wouldn’t worry about this.  I’d smile at Dot’s kicking and tell Teddy, “You kicked like this, too,” and think little more of it.  Of course if Teddy were here, Dot wouldn’t be.  I have yet to really wrap my brain around that thought; indeed, I don’t think my brain will stretch so far.

We built a treehouse, my brother and I, in an old willow tree that stood by the reservoir at the farm where we spent large chunks of our summers.  We spent hours there, shaded and partially hidden from the rest of the world by hundreds of narrow willow leaves.  We told each other stories and secrets, watched ducks on the reservoir, made plans for a raft that we never got around to building (to Mom’s great relief).

I don’t expect you to take your brother’s place, Dot, or to mend the Teddy-shaped hole in me.  I promise that I will love whoever you are for your individual self.  And I promise I will do my best to keep my sadness from making you sad or worried, and that I’ll also do my best to let you miss your brother (or not) in your own way.  I apologize (because the universe won’t) that he isn’t here for you to play with, laugh with, whisper with.

Teddy, I’m sorry that you can’t be here to meet your little sister, to tease her and conspire with her and romp through childhood together.  I promise to keep loving you, to not forget you or hide you away.

I hope somehow you two know each other.

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6 comments

  1. I believe that Kathleen and Henry met before Kathleen came to us. It isn’t one of those things that I think to be comforting. It is simply something I knew one day during my pregnancy, when I was sighing of the fact that they would never know each other. I still regret that they will not grow up together and hope that someday Kathleen will have a brother or sister to grow up with. Kathleen has been noticing pictures more lately, and I’ve been showing her pictures of Henry among others and saying, “That’s your brother.” Lately it has been making me sadder when I say that, knowing that it doesn’t mean what it should mean.


  2. Thank you for this post, Erica. I think I needed to read it today. I hope my Hope left behind some gifts for Thumper in there. Some wisdom, I don’t know. I’d like to think she left him something though. Those two babies of mine know me better than anyone. And they have lived in the same place, just a few months apart for the best part of two years now.


  3. What a beautiful post Erica. Like Sara, I do believe that Ezra and Sunflower have already met, and that Ezra paved the way for Sunflower to join us. But I still have great sadness that they won’t grow up together like I did with my own brother.


  4. What a beautiful post, Erica.
    I believe all souls within a family are connected, somehow. And I’m trying more and more not to peep into the Mystery, to just let it be, but it’s HARD.
    love to you. xo


  5. I hope that Dot and Teddy know one another too. It almost feels inevitable that they do, somehow. I hope that feels her brother as a blessing as she grows up. She will certainly have beautiful parents to help her along her way. xo


  6. this was lovely, and fascinating.

    Oscar was born 51 weeks after Finn. i don’t think it’s ever occurred to me consciously that O knows his brother, and yet long before he could talk much at all he knew Finn’s name. though we do not speak it often. that moved me. as this post did.



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