We tried out a few nicknames while still in NICU. Nothing in particular was sticking. For one thing, he did not look like a kitten. It's not that he was particularly big. He was smaller than Monkey was when she came home, but a kitten he was not. Small and cuddly-- check, snugly too. Just not a kitten. Not entirely un-catlike, you understand, but decidedly not a kitten. And then, a day or two after we came home, I picked him up just so, and his head went kinda like that, and we got it-- a small kitten of a very large cat. Lion Cub, or the Cub for short. And that is what we will call him around here too, from now on. But first, today, there are other names to name.
The Cub, he is 11 weeks old today, two and a half months. Which makes this post two months late, give or take (I know-- shoot me). His birth day, the 15th, is as far away on the calendar as a day can get from his brother's birth day, the 31st, without being closer again on the other side.
It's twenty one months today, a year and nine months. A year ago today the nine months thing was kicking my ass, and I was just relieved to survive Halloween at the same location I spent it a year prior, visibly pregnant and waddling. Ironically, stab for stab, today might have been harder-- the Cub, in his stroller, and then in the sling, underscoring that neither of them was here last year, and that one of them never will be. My dead son's would-be best friend calling JD by name today, for the first time ever, and to his mother's obvious surprise and delight, underscoring that we will never hear one of our children say anything for the first time.
I can't be any more clear in my own mind that my boys are different people, one not a consolation prize for the other. I am so clear on it in fact, that I needed to voice it for all to hear, lest anyone be tempted to say or imply otherwise. And yet to me they are undeniably connected, both in their similarities and their differences.
While the Cub was still in utero we knew he had his brother's nose. That kinda freaked me out because I didn't recognize that nose. Where did it come from, and why do both of them have it? After the Cub was born my mom mentioned, all matter-of-factly, that the nose was my paternal grandmother's. Smack forehead. Of course-- DUH!!!! How did I not see that? Weirder still was the relief I felt at that recognition-- the part, it turns out, was from the Standard Family Catalog of Parts. What does it matter, JD asked. They still have eight great-grandparents, the same exact gene pool, and this was still the same part for both of them, fished out, as it were, of that pool. I know, I know. And yet it seems less freaky now that it has a back reference than it did when I thought it a product of a random re-mix of the two families' genetic makeups.
The Cub looked a lot like A when he was first born. And now he doesn't, most of the time. I'll have you know that never take pictures of sleeping babies, didn't even in the time before thanks to an Old Country superstition, but I did take one of the Cub a few weeks ago. Because sleeping as he did just then, he looked so much like A.
He is very substantial, my younger son. There is substance to his whole being. Right down to the little fingers. Long, like his brother's, but... well, let's just say that to look at his hands, you'll never mistake him for a poor eater. He chows down on those fingers too, goes at them with gusto. I can't blame him-- they are positively delicious looking, and I wouldn't mind a nibble myself.
He grabs our fingers when we offer those to him. Most of the time I am right there in the moment, but every so often I am also back in that hospital room feeling my heart break because A's beautiful fingers won't ever grab anything. It sucks so much that I am the only one who knows, has a physical memory of, how strong he was, and how vital. The Cub holds his head pretty much without needing support, has for a while-- an impressive feat among the 0-3 months crowd. People tend to comment on that. Every once in a while I want to tell them that his brother was big and strong too. I never do.
They are separate people, without a doubt. But the fact is that you are here reading about the Cub because his brother died. Because his brother died, and I needed to write. I read blogs for years before then, but never needed one of my own, until. And for some reason that cries out to me for some kind of fairness-- fairness to them, to you, or to myself, I am not sure. For some reason it compels me to give voice to their proper names, just this once,* for some kind of record. So here they are, my boys.
A\/n.er G1de0n, A
L.i0r S0l0m0n, the Cub.
And finally this, the last bit of what I wrote the night before Cub's bris, a brief note that came surprisingly easy to the fingers, but much harder to the lips, when it was time for me to read it outloud:
We did not set out to find a name for this son that would connect with and honor the son who came before him. Naming our babies has traditionally been a difficult process for us, replete with complicated sets of requirements and aesthetic preferences. So when we discovered that both of us liked the name L.i0r, and that it fit our criteria, that alone was a reason for celebration. But the fact that this name shares a common theme with the name we gave our first son was more than a little significant to us.
Our two sons will never get to play together, or to cause trouble for each other or their big sister. They are, for us, connected by the family bond, and by their uncanny resemblance. And now they are also connected through their first names. A\/n.er means the father of light (or of the candle). L.i0r means my light.
P.S. Last Halloween was the day for the lovely C. Please stop by and remember with her as she marks her one year anniversary and Callum's first birthday.
*...even if I am still using funny characters to minimize the likelihood of being found via a search... I am not that brave.