In the same way that Jacob has always made everything easier--parenting, fun, learning--Benjamin has always made things more difficult. I don't mean to say that it's intentional. It's just a fact.
Many years ago, a friend made a comment to me about having children. He said, "the first one turns your life upside down. The second one turns it inside out." When I think about how incredibly accurate that statement is now, it strikes me as both funny and sad. For how many of us are able to stand on our heads with relative comfort and ease? We gain new perspective, experience new feelings and see the world in a whole new way. Yet how many of us can turn ourselves inside out and say the same thing? Right.
As a baby, Ben cried a lot, slept very little and the rest of the time wore a frowny face. By the time he was a toddler and we started branching out into the world again, dealing with our new dynamic, he was sleeping better and eating and smiling more. But somehow, he still made things difficult.
The Sunday before the last Thanksgiving for which my sister-in-law and dear friend would be alive, Ben came down with a fever. Not a low-grade-maybe-it-will-pass, maybe-he's-about-to-have-a-growth-spurt, maybe-he'll-be-better-by-Thursday fever. It was 104, the kind that stops him in his tracks and removes his appetite completely. For Ben to stop moving and eating, he's got to be really sick. The fever persisted, yet I held out hope that it would run its course. On Thursday morning I finally had to concede that I was staying home with Ben, and sent my husband and older son off to Thanksgiving dinner without us. I cried all day.
Things have gotten much easier with Ben since those days, though I wouldn't call them a breeze. We can actually make plans now and do things as a family more often than not. For that I'm thankful, and it helps me forget those tough, early days.
This weekend, my dear father-in-law passed away after a long illness. The funeral is this morning in less than an hour. Family members and friends will converge on my in-laws' house with well-wishes and hugs soon after. Why, then, am I sitting here writing on my blog? Because yesterday afternoon, Ben developed a fever.
Yes, I'm upset that I can't go to the funeral, sad that I am at home when my place is with my family. But one of the many things my father-in-law taught me was that each of us is just a piece of the bigger picture. We all play a part in building the future by caring for each other and by teaching and nurturing the next generation. In my mind, my place is with my husband and mother-in-law today. But in Ben's mind, my place is with him. We each need to be comforted, but Ben needs it more.
We will lose people we love. That is inevitable. But parts of them will live on through the rest of the family, because that's what family is. A continuation, a legacy, of love and life. And that is why I'm here.
Thank you, Jack. We love you.