It's happening. I dreaded it. Everywhere I turn, friends and strangers are readying their children for Kindergarten. It's what I should be doing with you. I find myself sinking again and, even though I know I won't stay sunk... it's still a scary feeling. When I think of you, I want to always think of the happy thoughts, the positive moments, the inspiring milestones. But when I'm sinking I seem to focus on the part where you died... and I couldn't do a single damn think about it. Even though I have things planned to help me get through this coming month when you should turn six and be starting Kindergarten - things like helping others and giving and volunteering, I still know it will hurt. Bad.
Last August, I was readying both of us for our first separation. I had decided to send you to preschool (best decision I was terrified to make) and I wrote this post the night before. I knew from that moment on that things were going to be different - that we would be "Reinventing Us"...
Sunday, August 26, 2012
This was the first time I got to hold you - really hold you - after you were born.
And each day thereafter for the thirty days you were in the NICU.
And all day and most of the night when you came home.
When it was just you and me, I would whisper promises in your tiny ears. I promised that I would always try to figure things out for you. Figure out what you needed. Figure out the best way to help you. Figure out the best doctors to see you. Figure out the ways you liked to be entertained. What made you smile...what made you sleep...what motivated you.
I promised that I would always be your student. I would research and learn and and figure out feeding tubes, hearing aids, genetic syndromes and all the medical issues that would crop up along the way. But mostly, I would let you lead. I knew that you would teach me all I really needed to learn. And you have. You were a patient and gentle teacher - perfect for this first time Mommy.
You and I have been a great Mother/Son team for the last 4 years, 10 months and 29 days. (I guess it's a good thing I stopped making these monthly signs at year 2!)
I have fought fiercely for you along the way and so far have been able to get you just about everything you needed - or we've been told you needed. I've made decisions that I believed were in your best interest, some that weren't very popular - like not succumbing to the pressure to have a G-Tube placed or letting your bare feet feel the floor and not feel braces all day long or keeping you home from pre-school last year so you could get stronger. I've been in your face a lot - and given you space to play and be 'you' a lot, too.
I have been very protective of you. Making sure people around you wash their hands. Not allowing shoes in the house out of respect for you - who spends most of your happy time on the floor. Being hyper-vigilant of other people's sniffles and sneezes and keeping you far away. The two of us even donned "Swine Flu Masks" when we went out in public during that outbreak. Yes, I am pretty over protective. And proud of it.
But when your body was weak and you were in trouble, we healed together. I've never left your side.
This Mother-Son dance has been a learning experience for both of us. And even though you led the dance - I chose the song. And I did the singing. But all of that is about to change.
Tomorrow morning, I will watch you get onto a bus. And that bus will drive away. Starting tomorrow, you will begin to have experiences that don't include me. I will be told what you did that day by someone else. I will read notes about your therapy sessions. There will no longer be thousands of photos a day. (Note to self: invest in a long, zoom lens and find a good tree outside of the school)
We will be reinventing us, Gavin. I will still be your dance partner at home...with the songs I've always sung and the moves I've always had.
But I know that you will come home each day with new favorite songs and new favorite moves and, once again, I will be happy to let you lead. It is very hard for this Mommy to watch you go. Hard for me to give up my job of "keeping you safe...happy...healthy...and progressing" as well as I can. Hard for me to think that I'll miss a "first" or a laugh. Hard for me to imagine that I won't be there to comfort you if you're sad or hurt. But I know this is the right thing for you - and I know that we will both be fine. I feel it in my heart. This is right.
As you go to school and meet the first of many teachers you will have from now on...
...I want you to know that you are the best teacher that I've ever had.
I love you so much, Gavin David Leong.
I think I did an okay job that year of "reinventing us" - wouldn't you say? But I wasn't expecting that one year later I would be trying to figure out how to reinvent ME. A me that has to learn to live without you - and not just while you're at school. A me that has to learn how to stay strong enough to mother your beloved brother in a way that puts him first. A me that has to learn how to comfort and support your devastated Daddy. A me that has to learn how to enjoy a pregnancy that at times leaves me feeling somewhat guilty. A me that has to learn to find the joy from your life when I can sometimes only see the pain from your death. It's all very confusing. Every day I wake up I have to choose these roles and walk these steps and make the decision to honor you with every breath I take.
I am trying, one year later, to figure out how it's possible to have a me without you. But I know with your help, together we will make what seems impossible... possible. You have always been - and always will be - my greatest teacher.