I have a long list in my head of things that I want to blog about, but when I think about those topics (fostering, having and then living with the fact that I had cancer, the experience of having Everett and our struggles with infertility, becoming disabled through social security, etc.) my head wants to explode. Mostly, everything that I want to share right now is just too emotionally draining. In order to write effectively about it, I would have to delve back into that brain space because that’s just how I write. I haven’t been sleeping lately, so those topics are just going to have to wait, lest I start to weep openly in Starbucks. Instead, I think I’m going to share a story about something that happened the other night.
We have a bedtime routine for Everett. I insist we follow it, even when we are tired and don’t feel like it. Everett sleeps better and then we do too. Ben was running his bath and I was holding him in the bathroom waiting for his little tub to fill with warm water and bubbles. Recently, he has begun to notice the artwork on the walls. He’s amazed by the little red elephant tile I have hung in our master bathroom. And he smiles and laughs at the pop-art painting of a schnauzer wearing sunglasses and a scarf my parents brought back from a trip they took down south.
Not long before we found out I was pregnant, my Great Uncle Frank passed away. We were very close to him and his passing was a great loss to me and the rest of the family. Uncle Frank was well loved by his community of antique dealers and artist friends. His closest surviving friend, Ceil, has become like another member of our family. She never had children (although my understanding is that they tried for many years). Her husband has passed away as well, leaving her alone in their little rancher. She is in her nineties and is about as spunky as they come. I think because of her own fertility struggles, she has developed an extra affinity for me, and was beyond excited to hear our good news.
Uncle Frank was a great many things, but he had an artist’s sensibilities. He painted mostly still-life in oil. But as a present for Ceil one year, he painted one of her favorite teddy bears in watercolor. When Ceil found out that I was pregnant, she made the painting a gift to me and Everett. It is framed in gold molding and has a lot of yellow hues. Because we chose to do the baby’s bathroom in yellow, I hung it next to the mirror.
So the other night I was holding Everett and we were waiting on the bath. Instead of playing peek-a-boo with himself in the mirror, he was staring intently and smiling at the painting. I told him that that was Franklin Bear and that Franklin was part of his name too. “You are Everett Franklin after the man who painted that bear,” I said. He gave the biggest smile, reached out his whole arm, and opened and closed his hand in perfect replication of how I’ve been teaching him to say hello and goodbye. He did this several times. He has never done this before, no matter how much I prompt. I asked him, “Are you saying hello to Franklin Bear?” He smiled at me, gave a little laugh, and did it again.
I don’t know why I found this so touching; perhaps because I don’t believe in an afterlife. I think there doesn’t need to be some other place where souls go. Uncle Frank is in Everett, he’s in that painting, and he’s in our hearts. And isn’t that enough? I think it is. I think there is something beautiful about Everett smiling and saying his first hello to Franklin Bear. Uncle Frank may never know my son, but my son will know him through his art, his generosity, and the imprint he has had on our lives. Who could ask for a better legacy than that? In the end we are only the love that we shared with others.
Ok, so much for not weeping openly in Starbucks. Until next time, have a beautiful week and take time to appreciate and love the ones around you.