This is a true story, it happened in a moment one icy Sunday morning in Duncannon PA. Aaron was just a few months old. It was on this day I learned our children are not our own. We are but stewards for a brief minute.
The ice beneath his feet was slick from a morning mist. Grey hung in the sky. Underneath the patio lay; concrete, a distant memory forgotten, not be unveiled for another two months.
He thought not of Spring but of just getting to the car. Flanked by leather gloves and wrapped in a scarf with a face beanie that gave him a sinister look from the neck up. From the neck down, he was a bundle of nylon, wool, goose-down, and cotton making him look more like a puffed-up version of the kid from The Christmas Story.
He made his next step, sneaking his left boot flat to the slickened sheet beneath.The muscles in his biceps and forearms contradicted themselves by cradling and clutching a knitted afghan throw made by his grandmother. It enveloped his first-born, that most precious bundle, but the weight made his outstretched arms ache.
Beneath the wrap were several more layers, how many, he did not know, nor was he sure where his boy lay in that collection of cloth. It seemed the tighter he pulled him in, the more his muscles pushed away in concert to carry the three-month-old in a human cradle. The chosen’s face, covered from the cold made his father wonder how either of them breathed under the weight of all the layers. He wanted to look but one more step and he could open the car door.
The Ford Fiesta’s motor was running for fifteen minutes now, blackening the snow behind it with an oil laced exhaust. The ice, once caked on each window, slid down it’s sides in dimpled panes, dislodged by the defrost. He imagined the dark interior was a heat wave, like his bundle’s bassinette surrounded by the smell of fresh wall paper inside the house behind. The Fiesta wipers moved mechanically in forced time, appearing to paint the glazed glass as they brushed water across the windshield.
The frozen concrete dipped down by mere inches to the car’s worn tires, creating a winter-time ramp of two feet. Just two feet lay between them and the warmth of cracked vinyl seats. His rubber hunting boot shadowed the ground reaching out for the final step while his shoulder dipped giving him a chance to stretch for the familiar latch. But it was blocked from view by the afghan and his drooping face beanie. His leather stitching caught the rusted torn corner of the chromed latch. The chrome, loosened by the years now stiffened in the sub-temperature breeze.
For that moment and just that moment, his mind focused on his leather glove. And his view went from horizontal to celestial. His obedient body followed. And in that moment, he held his only mission more precious than possible.
An antenna went by, then the green tops of the tall evergreens lining the drive. He saw a hint of sun buried deep in gray. He heard a woman’s cry and felt his heart beat before he heard the crunch underneath him. First an elbow, next a hip, then a heel, he didn’t know which side first. His shoulder blades followed as his head backed violently onto a veneer of snow crusted by the wind and a day.
The smell of quiet cold mixed with gasoline filled his nostrils. His focus cleared and returned to the bundle. He could feel the coldness of the wet snow on his face as he stared upward to the sky. His back ached, his elbow stung but were of little concern. Not wanting to move, not wanting to look, he was immobilized, wondering what he might find under the weight now resting on his chest.
His right arm pushed him to a seated position. Buttocks on the ice, boot caught under the car, and he not wanting to look. Only hearing the swish of his nylon shell, he pared away the protective layers without another thought.
His hand trembling from adrenaline or melting ice, or both; neither seemed to matter. First the wool, then a blend of sorts, something else, and now the last layer of all-natural cotton. He knew it was all-natural because months ago he smiled in the other room when the old ladies at the baby shower first read the label.
“Oh, it’s all-natural cotton,” they repeated one by one as the blanket was passed in a circle. ‘Hmm, all-natural.”
Pushing aside the white cloth unveiled the milky flesh of his first born; a lock of hair, then a forehead, his eyes next, and lastly his face. A mirror of his own eyes looked back at him – serene. He saw reddened cheeks, fat little lips, a hint of a nose yet to emerge. Everything there, everything in place.
A blink, maybe two, with calm trust only known by a new born or someday a serene old man in waiting, wrapped in his own bundle now surrounded by his family. Waiting to move on.
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and books. Follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.