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Thirteen

That big boy on the right in that picture up there started out like this:

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On Monday, he will be thirteen years old. There are days I have a difficult time reconciling the young man I see in front of me each day, and that teeny tiny baby who fought for, and won, his life. Yes, I’ve been witness to his growth and development every day of the last thirteen years. But how could this boy, who is slowly becoming a man, be that same fragile infant?

When he turned five – which seems like yesterday, by the way – I wrote him the following letter:

Five years ago you were born too early, born too small. You changed my world, and you changed me. I look at you now and I am completely amazed. You simply cannot be the same little tiny boy that I saw for the first time that day. Then, you looked like a baby bird – so red, wrinkled and with thin skin, covered in tubes, wires and tape, and the blondest hair I had ever seen. You were all there. Perfect in your miniature-ness. As the neonatologist who first saw you said, you were a “feisty fighter” from the beginning. Praise God for that! I’m sure that’s a lot of what saved you.

You are my hero. That sounds really corny, but it is the honest truth. You went through so much, endured so much, and yet still kept fighting every step of the way. All I could do was sit there by your bed and watch, wanting with all my heart to take it all away or take your place. Everyday I would go to see you I would play a song in the car, going and coming, called “He’s My Son.” That song still moves me to tears when I think about it or hear it. Your outcome was out of my hands. All I could do was place you in God’s hands. That became my job, my mission. So I would pray the song:

I’m down on my knees again tonight,
         hoping this prayer will turn out right.
         See there is a boy that needs Your help,
         I’ve done all that I can do myself.
         His mother is tired, I’m sure You can understand.
         Each night as he sleeps, she goes in to hold his hand
         And she tries not to cry as the tears fill her eyes.

Can You hear me? Am I getting through tonight?
        Can You see him? Can You make him feel all right?
        If you can hear me, let me take his place somehow.
        See he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep.
       I dream of the boy he’d like to be.
       I try to be strong and see him through,
       but God who he needs right now is you.
       Let him grow old, live life without this fear.
       What would I be, living without him here.
       He’s so tired, and he’s scared,
       let him know that You’re there.

Can You hear me? Am I getting through tonight?
       Can You see him? Can You make him feel all right?
       If you can hear me, let me take his place somehow.
       See he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

Can You hear me? Can You see him?
       Please don’t leave him.
       He’s my son

You’re five years old now. The time has gone so quickly at times, but yet taken forever as well. I look back on that time of your birth, and the time we spent in the NICU. I cannot believe we went through that. It blows my mind that we actually LIVED that. Today, I watch you run, play, yell, jump just like I longed for, prayed and hoped for when we were in the NICU and in the months that followed with all the follow-up care, doctors’ appointments, developmental evaluations, therapy, shots, and scares. You challenge me, you move me. I watch you sleep sometimes. I see the little hairs on your neck that are so blond, just like you had in the beginning. I see your hands in the same fists you used to make from day one as you would sleep. I see you kick your left leg out just like you did in utero, and in your incubator. That’s how I know that you are that same tiny little boy. I pray that you don’t somehow ever remember all the pokes and prods, all the tests, blood draws, transfusions, iv’s, heel sticks, and eye tests. I pray you don’t somehow remember the times I would cry by your bed, or the times I left the room and left you alone because I just couldn’t watch another “procedure” being done on you. I pray you don’t remember the times you would cry during the night and no one was there right away to pick you up. I don’t want you to remember those things because I remember them enough, and sometimes I think I have more scars than you do. You see the pictures of yourself from those days and you know they are you, but I pray that you never really know all that you went through.

You came home to stay on Christmas Day, 2000. In my heart, you will always have two birthdays- your “birth” birthday, and your NICU graduation birthday. So this is your first fifth birthday.

You are my greatest gift. You are my miracle. You are my son.

Happy 5th Birthday, baby boy. I love you more than ever.

Even as he turns 13, most of those words hold true. I still pray and hope for the same things. That song (credit Mark Schultz) will always, always make me think of my big boy.  I am still moved to tears watching him run and play. And in my mind, he will have his second 13th birthday on Christmas Day. Happy 13th Birthday, my big man. I love you more than ever.

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Yes, that’s him….skinny little him in the gray, crashing into that giant goalie. He bounced off, got back up and ran back to midfield, none the worse for wear.

7 thoughts on “Thirteen

  1. BTW, in case you didn’t see it, I linked to your “Expert” post from one of mine. It really hit home, and it gave me the confidence I needed in the teacher conference last night to reject a suggestion that I didn’t think would be in my son’s best interests.

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