I'm sitting here at Christi & Tony's house (life support of best friends and extended family) and Baby Willow is napping not more than 10 feet away from me and Jake is in the office on the computer. I had a bit of a full-circle moment a while ago while I was studying this rare measure of quiet. I was pondering the way I am bonded to these children and care for them as I would my own were I the biological parent, and thinking about the visit I had with Cole and Avery the night before last. I'll begin there.
I've had a hard time with missing these kids whenever I'm away for more than a few days since moving in with Damien. The distance and the sense of loss when they are not with me accounts for a big percentage of my depression and general unwellness, so I do the best I can with it. I was on the phone with Maggie playing catch up on recent events and checking in with her when the kids came in. When she told them it was me on the phone, they insisted on talking to me at once. Cole got the phone first, and immediately I noticed that his voice is deepening even more than it had in the time since I've seen him last a few weeks ago. The first thing he asked was when he could come back over to our place, the reason being that he missed me - conveyed with such yearning and longing and enthusiasm that I told him "Tell Mommy & Avery that I'm coming over in a few minutes." His voice perked up and he asked me "Right now?", to which I responded "Right now."
Almost immediately I was flooded with a sense of urgency to get over there and hold and kiss my babies until they were again reassured that no one in the world loves them like I do, no one ever will, no one ever could - it is for them and them alone. I cleared it with Damien, and left the loft. Immediately after I got there, I was met at the door and faces lit up. Avery latched on to me when I picked her up and walked us into the house, and simply held me tightly and wordlessly. She and I are bonded in a way that defies all things spoken, have been since she was an infant and it was my full-time job to take care of her & Cole every day while Maggie & Nathan were at work. It remains the most important job I have ever had, and my time with them and all of my babies is always immaculate and priceless. Best of all, it fills up the empty places I'm so crippled with. It still amazes me how even at 10, in the presence of his best friends and playmates, Cole still wants to sit in my lap and tell me that he loves me and give me kisses. He breaks my heart with his love. It is his own testament honoring me for who I am to him, who I always have been in his eyes, since he himself was an infant and would break into huge smiles whenever I came into the house and into view, tearing against Maggie to get to me. Avery as well, who never fails to take any opportunity to tell me how much she loves me and when I hold her seemingly cannot get close enough.
My sweet Sara Claire is at the hospital right now with Christi, she's getting scoped to decide the next course of action to treat her Crohn's and will be home within two hours or so. I'm in charge of Willow this morning/afternoon, and this marks the second longest time that she and Mommy have been apart from one another. She's entered a new growth phase in the past couple of days, she's calmer and getting more rest. This is the second time I've taken exclusive care of her, and all of my familiar sensibilities about caring for an infant have returned as if they never left me. Already I've bonded with her in quite a magical way that I can hardly describe, just trying to think about how to put that into words just this second I've felt my heart and my inner joy swell so much that my eyes are full of tears! She's barely two months old yet and already she tries to talk to me in cooes, she studies my face like she's trying to figure me out, and when I talk to her she smiles so big that her face gets scrunched up and her head lolls about. It's those moments I get to revisit a time years ago that I did the same thing with Avery, like Cole and Sara Claire and Jake before her. It is in holding her close to me all swaddled in a blanket, newly fed and freshly changed that I do what I've done with them all in similar moments past. I breathe them in deeply and send out to the entire universe my lifelong promise to love these babies as wholly and fiercely as is possible for me to, to protect them and ensure their safety at all times in every way known and unknown, and to be the most love-insane cheerleader ever to celebrate their lives, what they do, who and how they are, and what they become. I think part of the greatest joy in my life is the hope I have that I've helped to authenticate their souls and the moments where I believe I see examples of this in active motion.
On that summer afternoon fifteen years ago when Christi was a frightened teenager on the cusp of beginning her senior year of high school, we (she, Tarah, & myself) were at my house in my bathroom reading the results of the pregnancy test that confirmed what we already knew - she was carrying the beginnings of what would be Jake. Here she was with all life's possibilities in front of her until that moment, the realizations flying all over her, the baby's father was en route back to his naval station in Japan, her mother was NOT going to react well to this revelation, and then there was school and college plans after. I saw all of this in a quick flash right in front of me, written in the pain of her face. I remember this as if it also were yesterday, the feeling of protectiveness that consumed me whole when she said "What am I going to do?" in such an anguished cry - and without missing a beat, I held her face in my hands and said "No, honey - what are WE going to do - not 'you', but WE.". It was one of those precise moments when people bound by deep love come together in a time of great difficulty and a frantic search for hope that the hope comes flooding in. Right when it was needed most, I gave what I knew was the best reassurance that it would all be okay and we would get it figured out together as a family. And we did. For all the storms and temporary separations, we have managed to find one another despite the emotional tsunamis that threatned to destroy what we worked SO HARD to build.
My full circle moment right now is spending time alone with the first addition to our family (Jake) and the most recent one (Willow), thinking all of these thoughts and remembering all of these feelings of what our family has been through, and I'm tempted to pray to the universe a prayer of thanks for this amazing opportunity to be so many things - an architect for building a family; a doctor to heal up wounds, a friend to laugh and cry with, a pillow to land on, a safe place to kiss it and make it all better, a cook to nourish it, a photographer to document it, a storyteller to honor it all, so many important things I've been able to do. Within these two lives and everyone tied between them, I'm a part of something bigger than anything I've ever known outside of my home and family in Damien, and I'm again struck by the same thing that began the very first post in this blog - what a lucky, lucky man I am and what a full life I have already had!
Hard to imagine what will improve on all of this, but it's going to be an even more awesome journey from here on out.