Years ago Beve worked fulltime for a basketball camp. The summer I was nine months pregnant with our first child, he took a week off for her birth...then two weeks, then three before she finally made her appearance. It was pretty much the last possible day Beve could have been with us--he had a wedding across the state to be best man in, then three more weeks of camp in Oregon. When he left, (both of us crying!), a mere 10 hours after E was born, I had to weather my first days as a mother under my parents' roof. We had quite a few mis-steps in those first days. Fresh-squeezed lemonade which I drank by the gallons in the late July heat gave E such bad gas she barely slept an entire night. And it turned out I was allergic to the tape placed over my C-section incision, and within the first day home, had giant blisters under each strip.
But those weeks brought a whole lot of 'first things' for E and me. First bath, first pictures, first feedings, you know the drill. And that night when she didn't sleep at all, and I was beside myself with exhaustion and missing Beve, my mother got up and took E from me, sat in the rocker, cooing at her. Mom said to me, "You know, I don't remember the last time I held one of my own children. You know the first times, but you don't know the last." My BB was 14 years old then, and probably hadn't sat on my mother's lap in a few years.
I've thought about that statement many times over the year I've been a mom. There are lots of things I don't remember the last of. Last time I read a good night story to one of them, last time one of them climbed into bed with us because they'd had a bad dream (we used to keep a sleeping bag under our bed because J appeared in our room so often). The last time I brushed my daughters' hair (E hasn't put a brush through her hair since she was in high school--her curls tend to frizz with brushing). And yes, the last time I held one of them on my lap. All the first things in life we mark clearly, but the last things...they just slip away without us even knowing that they're last. I mean, if I'd known the last time I held SK (my baby) on my lap was the last time, I don't know that I'd have been able to let her go. But off she went, off all of them went to their own lives, their own grown up beds.
I've thought of this a lot this week because this last weekend was a last thing, though not for me. My BB flew across the country to say goodbye to our mother. He wanted to come while she still knew him, which she did. He wanted to say a few things to her while she could still understand. You see, I remember the first time my mother saw BB. I was right there, itching to hold that baby as well. Just a week ago, I found an old diary of my grandfather, in which he noted one June day in 1971 that my parents had received a phone call saying there was a baby boy to adopt.
I wasn't in Pullman last weekend when my mother saw BB for what might be the last time she knows him. But our sister was there, and she told me about it last night. She was crying as she spoke. See, BB knows that his life is what it is not due to the accident of birth, but through the deliberate choice of my parents. Just a few months earlier, they'd gotten a call about a different baby, and decided, for a variety of reasons, that it wasn't time, it wasn't the right baby to complete their family. But that June, they didn't hesitate. The chose BB without even seeing him. And his life was set upon a certain course. It's impossible to know what his life would have been like with different parents, with his birth parents, for example. But the family who chose him, loved and adored him. And made him the great man that he is.
Our mother knew him when she saw him, and in the end, when they were saying goodbye, she said, "Of course I love you, you're my baby." Coherent and true. Her last baby, a last conversation. A last thing, that surely should be marked as clearly---here?--as all the first things in BB's life. A moment to honor, a moment to mark with as much honor and even joy as the first conversation, the first look. Yes, sad enough that our sister dared anyone to have been in that room and NOT cried, but also good. To get to say those things he wanted to say, to hear her tell him--one more time--that he had always been loved, had always been her baby.
I don't know when the last time will be for me with my mother. Her days are likely marked in months not years now. But I'll think of BB when that moment comes. And honor the privilege.