The light shined so bright that I could barely make out who I was looking at. What I saw was an angel of my past. The only hope I held in death. He was my Elliot, he was my son, but he was not mine.
It took Henry and I two divorces to figure out we still loved each other. When Elliot died, he was only 3. We had been married for only 5 years. Elliot was a smiley kid. He drooled so much when he started cutting teeth. Sometimes we would have to change his shirt more than his diaper. Henry made me make him sleep in his own bed once he turned 2. I wasn't happy about it, but I understood that Henry needed me too.
We were married as kids. When we started holding hands, we were only 13. We married when we were 19. I don't think either of us even thought that maybe we should look around a bit before we bought in to the first thing we loved. But I loved him, and he loved me. It was obvious. Two years into our marriage, Henry held my hand still as I screamed and willed Elliot into this world. 9 lbs 6 oz, 27 inches long. Henry said he was as long as an elephant’s trunk.
Elliot was playing in the sandbox at the park. We had bought him these sand pales from the drug store because he threw a tantrum and neither of us had the patience to wait out the terror of telling him no. The sand was dry, unlike our sandbox at home that we would always spray with the hose to make it better for building. He would pack the pales and turn them over only to watch the sand fall and sprinkle through his hands. He kept groaning with frustration and looking to us like it was our fault.
I went to the concession stand to get us some water. I tipped the boy at the counter $5 because he didn’t call me ma'am. I turned back toward them and saw Henry frantically looking for Elliot. I panicked immediately and dropped the water to the ground and ran. We searched all night long. Once the search parties went home, we kept searching. Two of the other moms told me that Henry had rushed over to help a child who had fallen off the monkey bars. He turned around and we never saw Elliot again.
I remarried a hedge fund manager who was boring and wanted children. I told him from the start that I wasn’t able to have kids. I told him that I have severe endometriosis. He asked about treatment options and different ways in which we could be parents. I didn’t want to be a mother. I wanted to be invisible and forget I lost my little boy. I’m guessing Henry felt the same when he remarried. I saw them once at the theater. His new wife was watching the film and laughing so hard, but I couldn’t stop looking at him. He looked at the screen, but he wasn’t looking at the screen. He was in an entirely different place.
I wanted to say hello, or anything to him really...but I didn’t. Instead, I got divorced and remarried and so did he. This next guy had a thing for shouting at me. I wasn’t into it at all. I didn’t love him. So I left. Henry married a much younger woman. I guess she was only fun for a short while because they divorced quickly. I decided to be alone for as long as I felt alone. No one was going to make me happy. I had that realization during a day time fake Dr. TV reality show. So I spent the next 5 years walking around and going to work and going to support groups and going nowhere.
I tried to make myself a better man. I felt the guilt and weight, but I really wanted to live a full life and move forward. Shelly and I got divorced because I drank too much and cut myself off from her. I couldn’t stop it. Every night, I would read the same news clippings. I’d look at the photos of this monster that took my son. Seeing him in cuffs was no consolation for me. He hurt my son and gave him the horrible death by drowning, then threw him in a dumpster like garbage. I would let the very smallest of visions of these acts into my head and then scream into the night and break things. I would keep drinking and go to the the river by our house...the very river he took my son and try to drown myself. I wanted to feel what he felt, but like the true coward I am, I would always come up for air.
Shelly was losing her mind trying to hold both of us together and I wasn’t even trying. She left me and I completely understood why. I didn’t blame her at all. I gave her everything in the divorce and moved across the country to marry this girl I met at a support group. Apparently two supremely damaged people shouldn’t marry each other because they both need a savior and both are drowning. We divorced and I moved back home and married one of my co-workers. I didn’t love her, I was just done being lonely. She was young and had her whole life ahead of her, so I let her divorce me without dispute.
I spent most nights getting drunk and walking around the city, trying not to think about anything that still mattered to me. But at the end of every drunken night, I would end up on that bench in the park I lost my whole life in. One night, I was sitting there and looking at the moon. I was teetering between passing out and getting up and going home. I usually found home at these times. But I heard something behind me. I turned and saw the only living person left on this earth that I still tried not to think about. I loved her still everyday.
She sat down beside me and said nothing for a while, then laid her head on my shoulder and began to weep. It was like a wretched fist wrapping around my stomach. I hurt so badly that I wanted to throw up. I began to cry. I embraced her and we both cried and felt the wind blow into and around our faces as if Elliot was there too. We met there a few times over the next few months. The last time we met there, she asked me a question. She asked me if I would still have loved her if Elliot had never been born. “Of course” and she began to cry. She took my hand and asked me to never let go. We married again two weeks later.
Twenty-two years after we re-married we were holding hands in the car on the way to the race track. Henry had a "shoo-in." “The Dark Knight” was supposed to win us thousands. He was middle of the pack. I laughed at Henry as I always did because all of his picks were "shoo-ins." We were turning onto the service drive when the car struck us. I remember nothing after. The blow jarred me so hard that I could see that I was upside down and in slow motion, but I was too slow to move at all. Then the lights went out.
Then the lights came on. The lights so bright that I could only see the shape of a little boy coming closer to me. I could feel a hand in mine and I knew it was Henry’s. I felt him. He squeezed it as he also saw the shape of this child. We maybe both hoped so much that we were in Heaven or anywhere that Elliot was. The shape came closer until we could both make out his beautiful freckled face. His brown hair with a hint of red. His nose that was Henry’s and his mouth that was mine. He smiled at us and reached for our hands. “I’ve been waiting for you.” He took both of our hands and at first touch, his head shot upward to the sun and he stood there seemingly basking in energy. He was just a boy, but the harder we squeezed his hand, the more overpowering his became. We began to try to speak, but he pushed is finger to his mouth and we became silent.
He closed his eyes and swayed with the wind as if music was playing all around him. The very touch of his hand was making me feel light inside, like air. I felt invigorated by the moment. I felt extreme happiness and forgot all bad things that had ever happened. I had back my boy and my husband. Both with their hands in mine. Elliot looked at me and I saw a vision of me feeding him baby food as he spit it out all over both of us. He showed me his memories. He apparently was showing Henry his own as I began to feel Henry tremble and squeeze my hand tighter. Elliot showed me the time he fell out of the tree and broke his arm. He let me feel the way it felt to be him rocking in my arms, comforting him. I felt so loved.
I felt Elliot’s hand let go of mine. Then I felt Henry’s hand let go on mine. I looked all over for them, but they were gone. A voice said, “Mom?” I answered, “Yes baby.” He said, “It’s going to be hard for a while. You have to hang on to our hands." It was then that the light left me alone in the ICU, breathing through a tube. The pain hurt like nothing I had ever felt. I hurt all over my body. I hurt more inside. It was like awaking from the cruelest of dreams where everything you wanted really didn’t happen. Both of my hands were tied to the bed. Later, the nurse would tell me that I kept trying to pull out my breathing tube. I woke up and got physically better.
I got home and started the process of trying to drink myself to death. My family took away all of the alcohol and moved into my house. I tried to sleep the rest of my life away, hoping to dream them back in that light sky again. It didn’t happen and eventually I couldn’t sleep anymore. Months of self destruction passed before I remembered what my Elliot said to me. “You have to hang on to our hands.” So I got better. I went out and learned to paint and sit in the park without the horrid thoughts of my son. I learned to love again. Not in a romantic way, I could never love anyone but Henry...never could. But I learned to love living in the sun again. I let it all go because I knew they were going to be there to greet me...even if not mine anymore.
Thanks for reading...Z