And so, another year goes by.
Today was Austin’s third birthday. Of course, we can’t make it through this day without reflecting back over his birthdays past and how very far we’ve come in three short years. We celebrated his first birthday while home on furlough, five days “off” sandwiched between 14-day and 15-day hospital stays. That was the year when everything was still so uncertain; we were still in the thick of cancer, with no sense of what the next minute or day or year could bring. So on that day, Friday September 21, 2007, we had everyone wish for him at the exact moment of his birth. And at 11:48am, all over the country and maybe the world, friends and strangers were blowing out candles and sending wishes off into the universe, carrying hopes of birthdays to come on their wings.
Then last year, when he turned two, everything seemed normal, extraordinarily ordinary. We threw a small party in the yard with family and friends and as he blew out those candles, I thought he would last forever. I imagined him growing up, going to school, riding a bike, learning to read, having a girlfriend, graduating from high school, going off to college, getting a job, getting married, becoming a father. I believed all of those things would happen, surely with some bumps, maybe not in the perfect order. But I really believed they would happen.
And then came March. And another tumor.
And suddenly, I felt like a fool. Like an ass. Like how could I have let myself be so naive, so hopeful, so trusting. How could I have so thoroughly believed the worst was behind us when the worst seemed just about to begin? In those weeks, I wasn’t sure he’d make it to 3, let alone 30.
But today came. And, because life is once again back to normal, it was all about dinosaurs. He had a party at the park yesterday complete with a mom-made 3-dimensional triceratops cake. Now before you go thinking I’m Robo-Mom (as Mark called me with affection late Saturday night as I pieced together this chocolate and lemon monstrosity), this cake was far from perfect. In fact, by the time the party began, the head had come loose from the body, the horns were toppling and we were all joking about dinosaurs becoming extinct. But Austin was beaming with pride as he announced, “Dat a cool cake, Mom.”
So I’m back in that place yet again, that place of believing so thoroughly in all he will do, see, be in his life. Of knowing he will go to kindergarten and learn to read, he’ll ride a bike and play (non-contact) sports, he’ll kiss a girl (or boy . . . whatever) and drive a car. There will be setbacks and maybe worse than setbacks. But we’ll make it. He’ll make it. Just look at him . . . .