Awhile back I posted about the fact that I was expecting another little boy, and wondering what it would be like to have two. Luke is now almost five months old.
Henry: Yes, there's been some jealousy on Henry's part, and some irritation (mainly due to the noise Luke makes when he cries or whines in the car....part of his going to sleep process). But there's also been a lot of interest, for Henry, in watching Luke, in seeing how Luke responds to him, and pride in the fact that he's often the one who can get the biggest smile or laugh out of Luke. Sometimes Henry acts a little babyish, or imitates Luke, or throws himself on me, when I'm paying too much attention (to his mind) to the little guy. But all in all, it hasn't been as bad as I thought it might. The worst part was my anticipation of it being bad, and my sense of guilt at not focusing all my attention on Henry anymore. In recent weeks, in fact, I've actually come to think maybe it wasn't that great for Henry to be so focused upon. Henry might disagree.
Luke: For Luke, it's all about the Henry show. Just about anything Henry does elicits a smile or a laugh, and there's almost nothing Henry can do to him--no matter how rough--that Luke isn't willing to take. He's so thrilled that Henry is paying attention to him, it appears, that he's willing to put up with a having his arms and legs yanked and a finger poked in his belly.
It's been a real window into my own siblinghood and childhood with Ted...I feel like I've got the fly on the wall spot, watching what it must have been like...I'm not mystified by the adoration I had for my brother. Younger siblings, I think, don't stand a chance. We're smitten from the beginning. And I see, with a bit of a twinge, that my brother wasn't really kidding when he used to say his life was perfect for three-and-a-half years....(pre-me). But I can also see that I was part of his self-esteem, part of his sense of himself as accomplished and capable.
When I was writing my book, I was sort of guessing...thinking my way into what it meant to lose a sibling, because I no longer had a sibling from which to base my musings. I think I actually got it right. But it's different, thinking my way through it, and seeing it unfolding every day.
Not long ago, I got off a plane in Phoenix and confronted the words “Ted is Here,” painted on a pillar in bright orange. I almost cried. Ted, I realized, was the name of a budget airline. But it was also my older brother’s name.
My Ted died of an immune disorder 27 years ago, when I was 14 and he was 17. His story, along with that of another boy in Texas, were merged in the movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” (Which my family did not authorize.)
Like most people who’ve lost someone they love, I’ve always wanted him back, or at least present, in some way. As a kid, I wished for a spectral sighting. As a young adult, I sought out psychics and mediums, one of whom once instructed me to ask Ted to give me signs that he was still present. Once, I asked Ted to show me a clown. Two days later, at a coffee shop, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a clown mural. My elation was short-lived, however. Had Ted contrived it, or had I unconsciously found myself a clown?
I’m not making a case for the supernatural here. But seeing that “Ted is Here” sign gave me the old I-see-the-clown feeling again.
This blog, which I’m launching on May 27th, the anniversary of Ted’s death, is an invitation to those who knew him—and those who didn’t—to share their thoughts and memories about the Ted they knew, or the Ted they imagined. Hearing about him, knowing that others are carrying a bit of him around with them, is another way of keeping him present. Honestly, I’d like that much better than seeing a clown.
I’ll also be posting thoughts and commentaries on siblings, sibling loss, families and grief—subjects I have, not surprisingly, become interested in. And for those of you who’ve read my book, The Empty Room, which tells my story and those of others who’ve lost siblings, I welcome your thoughts and messages.