Friday, November 28, 2014

My Gratitude

Yesterday wasn't just Thanksgiving. It was also my nephew's birthday. I had intended to write and post our story yesterday, but unfortunately I spent the evening in the ER and wasn't able to go to his birthday party. Prior to going to the hospital, I slept through Thanksgiving dinner, which is usually what happens AFTER the turkey. It was a backwards day, but I realized this morning that it happened exactly how it was supposed to be. I'll explain.

When Ethan was born, I was recovering from my fourth surgery in sixth months, and the open incision in my abdomen had barely healed. I was in a dark place. I had hoped to be at his birth, but a recent ER trip made it unsafe. I was able to go see him, though. I remember it like a dream. I was wearing my Miami University sweatshirt and black sweatpants. I felt numb going in, until I saw him, and my heart opened up.

I can't remember if I was able to hold him or not. I want to say I didn't, because there was concern about exposing him to my ER germs. But it didn't matter. I was in a trance. I had never loved anything or anyone more than I loved him at that moment. Keith and Sonja had given ALL of us a precious gift! And our journey had just begun.

When Ethan was over, and it would be time for him to nap or go to bed, he would make this little moaning sound. A cross between a Yoga Ohm and the sound I imagine a baby calf makes. He would never just lay down and go to sleep. He had to move. So I would walk with him in my arms, and I would make the moaning sound back to him. And eventually he would fall asleep with his head against my heart. They would call me the "Baby Whisperer".

As he grew up and the moan was no longer happening, it took more to get him to fall to sleep. So I made up a little lullaby in Spanish. It was repetitive and I probably conjugated a verb or few wrong from lack of practice, but it became the song that made him sleep.  I would sing it over and over, and eventually he would fall asleep. It would almost always get him to stop crying. There was even a time when my parents and Keith and Sonja were taking Ethan to meet family in Louisville, KY, and in the car he just started crying uncontrollably. So they called me on the phone with the speaker on, and I sang it to him, and it quickly soothed him back to sleep.

I've referenced in past posts that my health has been pretty horrible for the past fifteen years. Several pretty significant health issues occurred in his early years, and the only thing that gave me the will to live was that little soul. He was my North Star. When I felt lost or like I couldn't take anymore, I thought of him, and it pulled me through. I imagined the feeling of him in my arms when his body would be against my chest, hearing my heartbeat, and me feeling his, and it was like this force greater than my illness.

I've always believed in God, and these words are not meant to say that the Divine hasn't had an enormous meaning in my life. But Ethan gave me something that made me want to live. I would tap into the force that had linked us from the time he was born, and I could feel it pulling me back home. I lost my own son when I was six months pregnant, and that pain never goes away. But from the time Ethan was born, I loved him as though he was my own.

When Ethan started talking, I desperately wanted him to call me "Tia", which is aunt in Spanish. I was a Spanish major in college, so I thought it would be fun. One day, he just looked at me and said, "YaYa". And that became my name. We were buddies. As he grew up and started talking more, each moment was an adventure. He was busy, always building, playing with trucks, playing outside in the mud, in the trees, in anything that fell in your typical boy activities.

When he started really talking, it was non-stop entertainment. At the same time, though, I swear he could feel my absence when I would go into the hospital. Keith would have Ethan call and leave me messages on my cell so I could listen to them when I was there. There is a story from when Ethan was a little over 2 years old. Keith and Sonja brought him over for a family dinner. After eating, everyone was visiting while my mom was doing the dishes, and she heard this little pounding. She followed it to my bedroom door, which was closed, where Ethan had brought a few toys. He was pounding on my door and yelling, "YaYa, YaYa! Come out with me!"

It broke my heart, but at the same time I took it as a symbol of how close we were. We were buddies. There have been times over the years where I felt like my best friend was that little monkey. It was pure love; no anger, no arguing, no fear. Just unconditional love. In truth, he always seemed (and at times still does) to think I was his age. When he was around four, he told me, "YaYa, when we grow up, we can either have a taco stand or drive a garbage truck." I've always leaned to the former, but who knows.

When my second nephew, Eli, came along, the brothers were linked from the word go. Ethan has always been protective of his little brother. As an infant, Eli would fuss as babies do, and Ethan would sing him the Spanish lullaby. He knew the words by heart.  When Eli started talking and no one could understand him, Ethan would ask him to repeat it, and Ethan would serve as a little translator. It was precious. The two of them remind of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. They are everything to me.

Last year, I missed Ethan's birthday because I was still so sick from my surgeries. I was dealing with some horrible side effects, so there was no way I could go. That's why I was SO excited to go to his birthday yesterday. I was having so much trouble breathing and wheezing that my doctor said to go to the ER. I was so heartbroken to miss it.

He talks to me a lot about me being sick, and he just doesn't understand why YaYa isn't fixed already. I give him the best positive answer that I can when I tell him I am slowly but surely getting better. I hope it works for him. I say it to myself, too. Sometimes I believe it, sometimes not. But I have so much to live for. Not everyone is blessed with love like this.

So actually, being in the ER was were I was meant to be. I got the help I needed. He was so busy with his gifts that I doubt he even noticed that I wasn't there. From my gurney in the ER, where the frustrations of my health issues were overwhelming me, I had a thought. I am meant to get better. I hear that two year old banging on my door, asking me to come out to play. I have to be well enough to be on the other side of that door going forward. I have to be there when my now 7 year old nephew comes knocking, because I'm his YaYa. I can't imagine a greater purpose than that, and I could not be more grateful.
 
Te quiero, mi sobrino, Te quiero, mi amor! Te quiro, mi sobrino, Te quiero, mi amor. Nunca sera un tiempo cuando que no te quiera!
 
Happy Birthday, Ethan! I love you more than moon and stars!