I was half way there when I first saw him. The gut ache of regret and loss didn’t get me that first time. That came much later in the day. To remind me that in the most mundane of moments, grief can slap you in the face at any time.
In an attempt to shake off the effects of sleep deprivation and soothe the wails of an over tired small boy, I had decided to tackle the two-mile walk into our town centre. This same shouting boy was the one who spent most of the evening awake for no good reason except to instigate a mini party that no one else wanted to go to – it seems he was just not cool or popular enough to pull it off.
Gabe was asleep before we rounded the first corner and with iPod in and retro summer tunes blaring, I found myself drifting into the wonderful state of dreamy musing. You know the sort of perfect detachment that happens once in a blue moon when you have three children under the age of nine, a job and a messy household that is hard to tame.
I saw him when his car paused at the traffic lights and I might have missed him except he smiled and waved. I smiled back, of course. But my smile wasn’t quite as wide as it might have been.
With his floppy, unruly white blonde hair, blue eyes and heart warming grin, he had stopped me in my tracks.
He was without doubt beautiful.
And for the briefest of moments and the heaviest of hearts I wished he was mine.This child, aged about three, was the image of my own son.
Except his face didn’t contain any of the unbalanced subtle wonkiness, the tell-tale sign of my boy’s genetic mismapping.
His face was perfect in its normality.
The car sped off and I shook the rising misgiving off. The moment was temporarily forgotten.
Arriving in the town centre, I tackled the list of jobs while my boy slept on.
Within 20 minutes I saw him again.
We were in the library returning some books that my older children had once again forgotten about. He was darting from book case to book case – taking book after book back to his mum sitting patiently on a bean bag on the floor. Pausing only briefly to sit on her lap for a few seconds at a time – constantly chatting and pointing out items excitedly.
I had no reason to linger but I did.
Gabe was stirring so I lifted him gently from the pram and sat him on my knee picking up some books. Recovering from his nap, he was still and just wanted to snuggle. The books in front of him held no interest.
Catching the mum’s eye, I smiled in solidarity. Two mums, two boys, the quiet library on a school day. It was the briefest of acknowledgements as her child was calling out for her attention on the other side of the room.
Never stop talking do they, she laughed swooping him up.
At four, my boy was yet to utter a meaningful sentence.
I left then. Unable to watch this strange could-have-been Gabe twin anymore.
But today it seemed the universe was mocking me.
We’d headed towards the park, via Starbucks, as Gabe adores the ducks. My favourite sight was watching him get excited and chuckle at the misdemeanours on the water.
And there was the boy again.
This time he was throwing bread into the pond – jumping up and down in anticipation each time. His face alight with glee at this simple task. Once the bread was all finished he took his mum’s hand and demanded “Cafe time. Now.” Before hurtling across the grass.
They run everywhere don’t they, the mum called over in recognition as she alighted after him.
At four, my boy could only step if a metal frame held his torso in place and helped him bear some of the weight of his body.
Reluctantly, sensing (and smelling) the need for a nappy change, we followed them over to the park cafe. Feeling slightly stalkerish, I nodded at the lady as we made our way to the toilets. On the way back I decided, on the spur of the moment, to order a cup of tea and sit on the next table to watch this boy – the fascinating Gabe double – a bit more.
He was tucking into a sandwich and negotiating artfully about when he could eat his cake.
His mum beamed kindly when she saw us.
Hello again, cheeky little thing. They would eat cakes all day wouldn’t they.
At four, my boy could manage no more than the most basic of mushed up food.
Glancing from one boy to another, I wondered if she too could see the similarity?
If she could also see the glaring differences? Was this the reason why she was accounting for and dismissing my strange behaviour?
Did she sense my inner tumoil? My afflicting emotions? Or perhaps I was just another mum in the park on a sunny day.
Breaking my reverie, my baby reached up and touched my face with both his hands and uttered his most used phrase “Mam mam mam mam.” Needing and seeking my full attention, he blew me a kiss. An angelic grin spreading across his little face as he watched me.
Some days you could send them back to the shop couldn’t you, the mum joked admitting defeat and handing over the cake to her jubilant son.
At four, my boy was doing things differently.
At four, my boy was showing the world that nothing would hold him back.
At four, he had fought harder and battled more than most kids his age.
At four, he was inspiring and influential. He had re-shaped our lives in a good way.
At four, he was not like a lot of his peers. He was unique.
But he loved and was loved such a lot.
He was incomparable. No one could come close.
Nah, I quite like him. I think I’ll keep him, I grinned back.