I Love You More Dad
He was born 5 weeks premature. I know why, he didn't want to miss the summer.
We had moved in to a new home in October of 2002. I couldn't wait for the next summer. The old house had no yard. The new home had almost a third of an acre and boy were we going to make the yard a place for kids. Within the first week we had a 40 foot deck built onto the back of the house that overlooks the yard. A huge pool with another deck surrounds the pool. What we wanted now was another baby. A brother for my son Stephen. The miracle wasn't happening though. Try as we might, each month brought disappointment in the baby making department. That changed almost as soon as we bought the new house. "I am pregnant" my wife told me over the phone while I was at work. "I knew that moving to the new house would make it happen" I told her.
As the winter months approched we got a new bedroom ready for our expected child. Will it be a boy? Will it be a girl? I didn't really care. As the months went past and spring approached I drove to work in the cold and snow. Each commute thinking... "I can't wait for summer". We did find out that our baby would be a boy during the second ultrasound. I was happy that my son Stephen would finally have a brother.
February arrived. One more month of winter. It's been the longest damn winter I can ever remember. So much snow. So much shovelling. I can't wait to use that deck and cook a steak and watch my son Steve do a cannonball into the pool in our backyard.
February 28th was a Friday in 2003. I still have emails from that date. My son Stephen was going to sleep over his grandparents house that night. My Dad and Stepmom were going to take him to see the new version of the Disney movie "The Jungle Book". My wife and I traded emails in anticipation of a rare Friday night out. We met my Mom and Stepdad and my sister at a restaurant and then went to a local bar and had a few beers. My brother Mark arrived later that evening. He looked so tired when I looked at him. I remember thinking to myself... he looks different tonight. His eyes all squinty. He had a couple of beers with us and then went home. My wife drove home that evening. The fact that she was now 6 months pregnant never left my thoughts. We will have another son soon.
The phone rang. It was 8:05 am. I listened as my Mother's voice spoke through the answering machine. "Mark has had a bad fall at work". I heard the words clearly but the negative thoughts never entered my mind. "We need to go to the hospital" said my wife. I thought to myself, "What good does going to the hospital do, It's not like he is going to die". "Let the doctors take care of him and later today I will drive to the hospital and all will be well. Then the phone rang again. This time my brother's girlfriend was calling, she spoke to my wife "It's not good, the fall was really bad."
The ride to the hospital was like a bad dream. It took forever. I remember as I drove I had talk radio on. The discussion that morning was about the possible invasion of Iraq. As I drove I pictured my brother sitting on the deck at my new house. He may still be banged up months from now I thought to myself but we will sit in the sun and watch Red Sox games and I will cook him the best steak he has ever had. He will be there when our new baby is born. He is the best uncle in the history of the planet. My son Stephen's eyes would light up whenever Mark walked into the room. He loves his uncle. I'd watch as Mark would scoop him up and throw him into the air and catch him. "Ups a daisy" Mark would yell. The laughter coming from Stephen is the laughter that only children possess.
It wasn't too hard to find the hospital, even though I had never been there before. Follow those big blue H's on the side of the road and they take you right to the emergency room. As I entered the parking lot and drove up the slight incline I could see my family members. They were crying. "It's worse than I thought" I remember thinking to myself. I shut the car off and got out and began the walk up the hill. As I walked I studied the faces and emotions I was seeing. My Stepfather was the closest. As I got to him he looked at me and said "He didn't make it".
I stood outside the emergency room and cried. How could this be? The whole winter I drove home from work each day in the snow and cold and thought about the next summer and how my brother would be there. How the kids would play in the yard as the adults enjoyed the sun and life would be grand. When my wife arrived I wanted to be the one to tell her. She was six months pregnant. We stood by a column outside the main entrance to the emergency room. I looked at her and told her "Mark did not make it, he died". She immediately went into a convulsive crying jag. I hugged her tight and told her to try and relax. I knew that was impossible. I was worried about our unborn baby though. I didn't want something else bad to happen that day. We hugged for what seemed like hours. Finally I had to go see my brother. As I walked into the emergency room a Massachusetts State trooper held the door for me. He looked at my face and I looked at his. He saw the pain. He said "I am sorry sir" and I walked into the room. My mother sat next to my brother as he lay on the gurney. "My little Marky is gone". She stood as she looked at me and I held her in my arms and we cried. I couldn't think of anything to say to her but then my mouth spoke "We are going to name our unborn child Mark, Mom. After his uncle. He would love that."
After being in the emergency room for some time I walked back out to the parking lot. My wife was still sobbing uncontrollably. I hugged her again. Rubbing her back as her body heaved in sobs. It was time to leave. She looked at me and said can you drive? I knew I could drive. It was still sinking in. "Yes, follow me and we will go to my Mother's house".
As I left the hospital parking lot I changed the radio from talk format to music. The first song on the radio I heard after my brother's death was John Lennon's "Imagine". The first words to the song pissed me off. "Imagine there's no Heaven. It's easy if you try". I did not want to hear those words right then. I can listen to the song now. For a long time I could not stand the song "Imagine".
One thing drove me to get through the rest of the winter. My wife was pregnant with our child that would be named after my brother. If my brother knew that my son was named after him, it would make him so proud.
Spring of 2003 was the coldest most dreary spring I have ever lived through. There were times when I thought to myself.... "Will the summer ever get here? Will the pool ever be open? Will Stevie ever do that cannonball into the pool I have been waiting so long to see?" May arrived and the cold and rain never let up. My son Stephen turned six. His uncle was not there to give him a birthday present. June came. Still so damn cold and rainy. Then spring finally decided to make an appearance. We were hit with a heat wave. It was 100 degrees for three days in a row. I finally got to see Steve do a cannonball. I finally got to cook a burger on the grille. I couldn't help but picture my brother sitting next to me as I cooked the burgers. Telling me how the Red Sox were going to win the World Series.
June 24, 2003. My wife starts to have contractions. Finally. Something happy is going to occur after months of sorrow for my family. We went to the hospital and waited. As my wife went into labor I remember looking at her face. She was in such pain. The nurses had asked me to step away from the bed as the tended to her. I cried. I had never been an emotional man. I looked at her and saw her in pain and I wanted it to stop. As I cried a nurse looked at me "Are you okay?" I repled "Yes. It's been a long winter and this is one of the happiest days of my life". Mark was born at 11:20 pm on June 24. After spending some time in the intensive care nursery I decided it was time to go home. It was 1:00 am. I walked to the car. Driving home alone I asked for a sign from above. As I pulled up to the traffic light at the hospital entrance Bob Seger's "Night Moves" came on the radio. This my friends is definitely a sign. My brother loved Bob Seger and especially the song "Night Moves". I turned the volume knob to 11 and cranked it as loud as I could stand. Tears flowing down my face as I drove to my new home.
I knew why our baby was born 5 weeks premature. He is going to be a summer lover, just like his uncle was. The uncle that he never got to meet. The uncle that would have given him a nickname that would be spot on for his personality. Sometimes I try to think of what nicknames he would have given his nephew. Mostly I think about how much my brother would have loved our little boy.
"I miss Uncle Mark, Daddy". The sweet little voice said to me one day. I looked at him and he said "Is Uncle Mark in Heaven and can he ever come down and see us?" "Yes, Mark, your uncle is in Heaven but he cannot come down and see us. "Will I ever see him Daddy?" "You will see him one day Mark, but he watches over you every day." I looked at his eyes. The innocence in them made me want to hold him tight and hug him. "I love you Mark" I said to him. "I love you more Daddy".