Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Jackson is seventeen months old today. Seventeen months. In just nine more days, he’ll have lived as long as Hudson lived before she was diagnosed with an ultimately fatal illness. In just twelve more days, he’ll have lived as long as Hudson lived. In just thirteen more days, he’ll have lived longer than she ever did. I feel almost as though I am on a precipice, bracing myself for the inevitable fall over the edge, into an unknown that should be a known, into the rest of Jackson’s life, into the rest of my life without Hudson.
This election season has filled me with such nostalgia—at this time four years ago, we were eagerly awaiting Hudson’s birth in six or seven weeks. We met the future vice president and he rubbed my belly for good luck and told me that having a child was the greatest thing in the world. I dreamed about the day when I would get to tell that child the story of how he or she had brought good luck to Barack Obama and Joe Biden in a historic election. On Election Day, we drove home late in the evening from our voter protection post in Richmond, listening to the radio for news of the results, getting chills when our home state of North Carolina turned blue, rejoicing when it became clear that our guy had won.
That was four years ago. Four years. And yet I remember it like it was just yesterday. It seems like it was just yesterday. For the first time, I think, I am starting to get a real sense of the passage of time. Hudson has been part of our lives for more than half the time Ed and I have known each other, yet she lived here with us for only seventeen months and twelve days of that time. This is now our third fall without her. The third Christmas approaches. I see pictures of babies born long after her who are now turning three. I wrote an email today in which I noted that I left my law firm almost three years ago—this wouldn’t be striking, except that I left my law firm only five months before Hudson died. Which means she has been gone for two-and-a-half years. As if I only just realized that when writing about something wholly other.
And more than anything, now her little brother, our precious Jackson, another light of our lives, born an entire year after she died, is now almost as old as she was when she died. And yet he is still so very little. He is still so very young. Our time with him has only just begun. Only now have I really begun to understand how very short our time with Hudson was.
And just as Hudson did, Jackson delights us at every turn with his huge grin, his friendly “Hi!,” his sweet kisses, his love of books, his ever-expanding vocabulary, his silly sense of humor, his Elvis-impersonating dance moves, his contagious giggle, his engulfing belly laugh. He reminds me of her in so many ways, but when I try to remember what this time in Hudson’s life was like, this time in the last month before she died, I can conjure so little in my head that exists separately from a photo (photos we have shockingly few of from those last several weeks of her life). I can vividly recall the last interaction we had with her before she woke up very sick early that Monday morning. A few hours before that, about 11PM or so, after a day of rising and falling temperatures, she’d woken up again with a fever, and after giving her some medicine, we brought her into bed with us to make sure that her temp went down and that she was feeling better. At some point, she sat up in the bed between us, chatting in much the same way that Jackson chatters now, clearly saying something that is just beyond our understanding as mere adults, smiling and playing with the wooden spindles in the headboard above us. I remember smiling and saying, “OK, I think it’s time to go back to bed now,” and putting her down with every belief that she was totally fine and would wake up in the morning back to her old self. But less than 24 hours later, I was crying over her in a bed in the ICU, and 24 hours after that, she was, as far as we know, already brain-dead.
Until now, my only understanding of what we have been missing without her has come from watching the other babies her age grow older, from watching the interactions between her peers and all of their younger siblings, and from my own imagination, as I try to picture in my mind what she would be like if she were here, what our lives would be like if she were here. An almost four-year-old with thousands of words and a sophisticated understanding of how to put them together. A lean, gangly, long-haired girl where there was once a round-faced toddler with a baby mullet. Two kids to wrangle at the grocery store. Two kids to drop off in two different rooms at school every day. Two kids to make peace between in the back seat of the car. Two kids to watch grow up together, play together, make each other laugh, play jokes on each other and on us. There is so very much we haven’t experienced that we should have experienced.
Until now, I have had only a sense of what we have been missing, like the blurred background of a photo. But on Election Day, Jackson will wake up to his 530th day, a day that Hudson never saw. And from that day on, we will know, in sharp relief, perhaps really only for the first time, what we have been missing.