Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Remembering Cory, Celebrating Life

Today would've been my eldest son's twenty-sixth birthday.

It is hard to believe it has been that long. My eyes close and I can replay 1982 as if it were yesterday. The future, back then, seemed so far away. Today, I sit in my little office with my two daughters vying for attention, and I remember when motherhood began.

Time is a fleeting thing. I was a month shy of my 18th birthday when motherhood visited me in the night and ripped through my being. This chubby, dark haired, slit-eyed, apple-cheeked being was placed into my arms. "He is such a big baby from such a tiny girl," the nurses commented. "She did well for such a young girl." They chatted back and forth while the doctor worked to stitch together the pieces of my femininity and the nurses weighed, measured, and wrapped the baby boy who was to capture all the love I never knew existed.

My journey toward motherhood began on that wee Wednesday morning. I didn't even know I was in labor, not for real. I felt the pains and of course knew my belly was stretched beyond measure. I thought perhaps it would go away, my parents were tired, I didn't want to wake them unnecessarily. Perhaps I waited too late, I don't know, but I walked back & forth in my bedroom and before it was vogue, engaged in natural labor. By the time I woke my dad and stepmother, there was no question, the contractions were five minutes apart and we were all praying I'd make it the thirty miles in time.

The nurse at the University hospital seemed a little disappointed she didn't have time to "prep me" before labor. Looking back, five children later, I'm glad I never had to endure that humiliating practice that mothers endured in the early 1980s and before! She had to help me waddle back to the labor room, another antiquated throwback to a time when labor was considered an illness and not natural. It was definitely sterile in there with the lights and table.

After I realized I was a mother, I fell so completely and overwhelmingly in love with this little creature placed in my arms. I never wanted to be away from him even though those years were when little ones were ensconced in the nursery and brought to the mother for feeding.

Cory had a little heart murmur and was taken to the infant intensive car unit for about a week. I thank God for my father's generous insurance, in the time before HMOs. I was able to stay in the hospital with him and continue my bonding. I couldn't imagine going home without him and for once, flat out rejected my father's request for me to come home. "I'm not leaving him."

When we did leave the hospital and come home, my stepmother redid my bedroom. It looked like a ray of sunshine with new bedding and a crib filled with everything he would need. Their old, southern ways didn't believe in baby showers or gifts before the child was born. We were home.

The early month of his life was filled with me graduating from high school and trying to get my father to hold my son. My dad was a big man and he was probably still saddened that his brilliant, college-bound daughter, had sex outside marriage and got pregnant. This phenomenon wasn't that common in my part of the world in 1981-1982.

I look back now on my first born and wonder what he would be like now. Would he have finished college? He'd still be too young to get married, in today's timeline, but I'm sure he would've dated. I try to see him in his five youngest siblings - three brothers and two sisters - and tell them about their eldest brother. They all know I get a little reclusive, thoughtful, and melancholy on April 1st - the day of his birth and November 1st - the day of his death.

If Cory were alive today, I think he'd be proud. My dad was certainly proud of me by the time he passed away in 1999. I think Cory's legacy continues in the lives of his creative and outgoing next-in-line, the tall and reflective Navy brother, the musical and comical youngest brother, the princess little sister, and the very determined and strong-willed baby sister of the family. He would love the loud and boisterous conversations around the dinner table. He'd smile at the way my husband can alternate from being a big shot at the University to a doting dad with the girls. He'd probably tap my shoulders as I type away the musings of my heart. I'm sure he'd try to intervene between the fighting duo of my youngest son and oldest daughter.

Today is a sunny, but cold Missouri day. My son would be twenty-six. I remember him and I smile. I'm still his mommy.


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