Wednesday, October 31, 2007

To Lose a Son

There are many ways to lose a son.

You can lose a very, very young son to IFC, a rare genetic disorder. Your son would be bloated and wall-eyed; he would not recognize you at all, even as you held and hugged him. He would have no cognition and would probably be the closest thing to a human vegetable. His only bodily movements would be epileptic seizures. You would prepare for his death by building a tiny coffin, even as part of you wanted to believe he would not die. You would go on loving and loving him; at the same time you would wonder how your body, or G-d, or whatever could have produced such a miniature monster.

Then one day the child would stop breathing and die. You would dress him in a white shirt and a striped tie and let the undertaker carry him away in the small- very small - coffin you kept in your attic. It would be a cold day in February, and the funeral director would allow you and your husband to carry the little box and place it in the earth because this has all along been the plan. It would begin to snow as you left the cemetery. A part of you would be frozen with grief; another part would know that your baby has been called to a place where he will fare better than he ever could on this earth.

You could lose a son to Down's Syndrome. After you labor and labor, you would expel a child with the wrong number of chromosomes.You would soon be asked if you wanted to give him away. You would be told that there are wonderful group homes that care for such children. Social workers would come and explain and explain and explain again the difficulties of keeping such a child and the benefits of placement in a special setting where all the little girls and boys are the same. Before you would know it, you would be signing adoption papers, and your child would be taken from you to a facility somewhere out in the country and fresh air. You would leave the hospital with empty bellly, arms and heart.

There is another way to lose a son. You and he could pierce the soft corridors of each other's hearts and forget how to be sorry. For the first time you would feel only your own pain and not his; for the first time you would struggle to keep yourself from walking through fire instead of protecting him.The undertaking would take place in your aching brain. As you would dig, you would find strata and sub-strata - endless sub-strata - of memory. You would wonder how this compromised brain of yours could hold so many memories: the pain of his skull pressing against your spinal column during labor; the feel of his lips on your breast for the very first time; the little voice that said to you in the middle of one night that his throat hurt when he swallowed his saliva. Even though the funeral would be solely in your own head, the eulogies would be endless. You would try to take some of your archaelogical love and use it to patch your own pierced heart; you would struggle to find a way to give some of it to him. And you would fail, again and again.

There are many more ways to lose a son: many more ways to turn to stone.