Birthday Hugs and Tears

Today was my grandson’s second birthday.  Seems funny saying ‘my’ but there it is, Kevin’s gone so now it is ‘my’ grandson.  I have three grandsons, two live about 500 kilometres away and one, a newborn, lives about 3 kilometres away.  Gareth, who turned two today, lives far away.  That distance always made Kevin sad.  After the grandkids would visit, Kevin would always retreat within himself, lost in thought, filled with ‘what-ifs’ and ‘whens’; he so wanted to be a big part of those little boys’ lives.  We would joke that the boys were probably shocked when they saw us full size; they were used to seeing us the size of a cellphone screen.  This reflection of our relationship with our grandsons is not a criticism or a guilt thing; it’s just the way life is. It is a reality that work, life or love can result in a family spreading farther and farther afield.  You learn to take advantage of what you have, when you have it.

Gareth will celebrate his birthday with me and his Aunt on Saturday, after my son and his family make the long journey to my house for a visit.  It will be a wonderful occasion but also a sad one, since it is the first event in our immediate family since Kevin died.  Birthdays were truly celebrations in his world, Kevin’s own birthday would last a week when he was healthy and well.  I wonder what he would have wanted to get Gareth for his 2nd birthday?

I spent this afternoon with my daughter and her son, Lennox, who is now almost 12 weeks old.  Lennox was born on February 28th, Kevin would die a month later on March 29th.  All the spoiling rights he wanted arrived too late for him.  I was holding Lennox today and imagining that Kevin was holding him with me.  It’s an emotional thing, holding a new baby.  They are so soft and sweet, all the promise in the world ahead of them. I imagined Kevin gently whispering promises to a grandchild he would never know.  It seemed so real and close to me that I could smell him, Kevin, that he was there with me.

I know that on the weekend when we celebrate Gareth’s birthday there will be tears.  All three of our grandsons will be together in our house, lovely little boys to celebrate and love.  We will reminisce about their grandfather whether we want to or not.  There will be sorrow as well as joy.  The family will be together but there will be one vacant chair that is just glaring in its emptiness, one voice missing in the conversation.   I wish that there weren’t overtones to this birthday but there are.  Fortunately, Gareth is only two and far too young to understand that his birthday is the first marker in a long line of many to come since Kevin’s death.