Except this time, for the first time in the last couple years, my absence isn’t directly related to my struggle with the heartache and loss adoption has brought into my life, my oldest son’s life and my family’s life. Instead it has plain and simply been life itself that swept in before the summer ever officially started and took over to a point where trying to do anything but deal and cope with what was happening from day to day, week to week, just wasn’t something I had the capability to do.
Soon after I wrote my last post about the disgusting practice of Birthmother’s Day, I learned my grandfather (in the picture above with my youngest son and oldest son) had liver cancer. And in less than a month, we lost him.
He was an amazing man and a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather. And as my family packed up and headed to the small town in Montana where he lived, I was thankful that my oldest son was able to get to know his great-grandfather, and my grandfather was able to get to know his oldest great-grandchild before he passed on.
What I did not know, or expect then, was that I would hold that same thankfulness for another family member just a few short weeks later.
Since my grandmother (who I lost back in 1997) and grandfather were antique collectors as well as dealers for many years, my grandfather’s house was a treasure trove of beautiful and rare items that needed to be taken care of – that oh so fun task that has to happen after your loved ones pass away. So it was decided that three weeks later, after returning from my grandfather’s funeral, I would return to Montana with my mother and help her and her siblings (my aunts and uncles – six total) go through the house and make a record of the many antiques inside.
But on the eve before I was to leave, my family was struck again with another loss . . . a loss of the worst kind.
My husband’s younger brother and my children’s favorite uncle, Erik, was tragically killed in a terrible accident. He was a welder and was working on a fuel tank when it exploded. He was only thirty-two years old and had a six-year old son who has forever lost his wonderful father.That’s Erik and my two younger sons in the picture, taken a long time ago when my sons were still so little and Erik had not yet ventured out of his teenage years.
At thirteen, and not understanding yet the loss of his first born nephew, my oldest son, he found himself facing the loss of being the baby in the family while I was pregnant with my middle son.
When we would talk about him being an uncle, he would very firmly let us know that he did not want to be called Uncle Erik. That was it. No questions about it. That was his final answer.
And then my middle son was born and only a few short hours later he held his nephew in his arms and in that instant, that moment, he became “Uncle Erik” in every way. He fell instantly in love with my son. Insisted his mother take him down to the hospital gift shop so he could buy his nephew a gift (a beautiful “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament that will forever be a treasure for my middle son.)
Gone was that thirteen-year old boy who didn’t want to give up his place as the baby. He’d been replaced by a young man who, from that point on, was the best uncle any person could ask for. My children loved him. He was everything to them. And he was because he was there for them. He was a huge part of their life. He supported them and loved them and let them know, no matter what, they’d never be alone as long as he was around.
And I still can see that day when he was reunited with his oldest nephew who he lost to adoption so many years ago. It was Christmas Eve and the hug they shared still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. He loved my oldest son and my oldest son loved him from the very start. To see them, you never would have guessed they had almost two decades separating them from each other. They were uncle and nephew in every way and just as close as the relationship Erik had with my younger children.
His death was something we still struggle with. We expect to lose those older than us, our grandparents and parents. Even our spouses sometimes. But to lose someone so young in such a tragic way is something else all together. On that night he died, my sons and my husband sat together in our bedroom and I could hear them crying together, mourning the loss of their uncle and their brother.
And there is nothing, as a mother and wife, that makes you feel more helpless and frustrated then being unable to take away the pain and grief of those you love.
So that was the start of my summer. Though the sun was shining outside and the temperature was warm, for us, it was a cold, dark time we had to find our way through.
But this part of life that took over also brought with it some good times too . . .
For years, my husband and I have told our children we would take them to Vegas – in style – once they turned twenty-one. As it is one of our favorite places to go to get away, our children have spent years expressing their desire to go and it was through that we decided we would take them when they were old enough and could truly experience all the town was meant to be.
And it never was far from my mind, during those moments, that if life had not dealt us such a loss, the first one we would be taking to Vegas would be our oldest son. And a little over a year after reuniting with him, during the time when he had pulled away and we hadn’t spoken to him for months, my husband and I were in Vegas and my mind was full of heartbreak because I didn’t know then if we would ever have the chance to take our oldest son to Vegas and begin our fulfillment to our promise with him, as it should have been.
There’s the proof, though, in the picture of my oldest son, taken on his first night in Vegas. This summer we were able to take him for a week and enjoy the time with him and know just what an amazing miracle it was that, as the oldest, he was the first to be able to claim that promised trip to Vegas.
For some, they can’t understand why this trip, over all others we have ever taken, meant the most to me. But those who know adoption and understand the uncertainty it brings with it, there has been no question why taking my oldest son to Las Vegas was a dream come true. One I, at one point, wasn’t sure would ever happen.
So there has been terrible loss and wonderful gain for myself and my family this summer and we still have more to look forward to as the start of Fall comes upon us.
During the time we mourned the terrible loss of Erik, I learned I would be gaining a wonderful daughter-in-law. (Yep, that’s them in yet another picture I’ve posted.)
And with only two and a half weeks left now, I’m in that frantic mode of worrying that everything is taken care of and will be ready for the big day.
And I promise I will now do my best to catch up and read and become a part of the fight all over again.