Three and a half years later and I still lie awake sometimes worrying about those eyes. Eyes of a tiny, newborn boy. Eyes that I never got to see. I wonder if I had seen those eyes what they would have told me, what I could have known by looking into them.
Three and a half years later and I still see the nurse rushing through the room with the tiniest boy I had ever seen. I never saw where she took him. By the time I was sewn shut, he was inside of his incubator and wearing what I thought of as his super hero mask. The mask that protected his delicate young eyes from the harsh lights of his new home. I never saw those eyes.
Three and a half years later, I sometimes press The Mister for details that he will never be able to give me because I can't really tell him what it is I want to know. He was taken to that room beyond mine with that tiny little boy. He got to look into his eyes. He got to see him before the tubes and the ventilator and the nurses and the IV's came between us. I try, from this distant place, to feel what he felt when he saw them. I try to know how my baby boy felt coming into the world. I try and decode through my gentle and patient husband what message that little boy was sending us. Did he, like myself, feel hopeful and strong? Had he known that his time on this earth would be short? Might he have been reassured by meeting my eyes? Might I have been reassured by meeting his?
Three and a half years later and, on nights like tonight, I get down the special box that holds everything that my little boy ever was or ever will be. I hold his tiny diaper and his tiny hat. I read through the kind and loving notes left by family and friends for him and for us. My fingers stroke the soft blanket and hat given so kindly by the NICU staff. But it is that mask that I come back to again and again. If I had only been able to see my son beyond that mask.
Three and a half years later, I see him lying in my arms as he took his last breaths. I ache for the touch of him. I ache to hear the slightest cry from his lips - something to tell me he was normal and that somehow he was stronger than we had given him credit for. But most of all, I ache for him to flutter those eyes open, to see that we are there for him, that we are right there in the hardest moments of our entire lives and that we wouldn't choose to look away or be anywhere other than right there in that room holding him. I want so much to look into his eyes and try and communicate that he was enough, that he was just what he should have been and how sorry I am that I couldn't do more, be more.
Three and half years later and I know that for the next three, or thirty, or three hundred, I will wish that I had met those eyes, just once. I will miss my son. I will wish for and long for and regret and feel anguish. The pain is less, it's true, than it was at first. Though I still think of him every day, most days I don't cry. Most days I focus on the daughter who is here, on the family who I love. I can know that part of my son's legacy is to allow me to be a more present mother and wife and friend and daughter. But on days like today...
I would give anything to see those beautiful eyes.