Recently Lu and I babysat our nephew Oren for several hours while his Mom and Dad went out to see some friends.  We volunteered for the job after careful consideration, because we just felt like it was something we needed to do.  For us, for them, for Oren, for everything.  There were others that could have watched him, but we decided that we could not let Silas’ death come between us and my brother’s son.  It is important to us that he know us and love us and trust us, and we can only forge that bond by being with him as much as possible.

Most of the night was easy.  Whenever he started to realize that Mama wasn’t around we managed to distract him with balls or busses or an impromptu game of peek-a-boo and we managed to keep him from tears nearly all night.  Thoughts of Silas and our lives denied did surface from time to time, but everything and anything can ignite those impossible blazes, and I’m good at quenching those mental firestorms these days. I fought through and had fun.

Love what you have, I kept telling myself.  Cherish him, enjoy his adorable smile, shower him with as much love as I would Silas. And it was easy.  Oren is my family, my blood.  It was wonderful to play with him and watch him and make him laugh and hear his new words.  I thought about how he didn’t even know of Silas, and I wondered how all of that would be addressed in the coming years.  Then I remembered I didn’t even know how to deal with next month, much less years from now.  Then I chased him around and scooped him up and his tiny hysterical laugh melted me inside, again.

Soon it was time for bed.  This one was on me, I knew that.  Lu and I had discussed that specifically and we decided I would be the one to put him to bed because it was everything Lu had ever wanted with her own child and tonight it was a bit too much, too soon.

I could do it, though.  I knew it.  I had to.

I gathered him in my arms like my brother Mark does.  I put on Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky because Oren loves that.  We closed the door and turned the light off and I rocked him around the room, softly swaying to the silken tunes.  First up on my shoulder and then in the crook of my arm, I told him I loved him and whispered him to sleep, moving the whole time.  Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes in, his arms and legs went twitchy and his breathing slowed, and then just like Mark said to, I waited just a little bit longer.  Waited till his REM really kicked in and then gently, gently like a ostrich laying a giant egg, I placed him in his crib and slipped out of the room.

It was extremely intense.

I’m not sure how I wasn’t sobbing, but I wasn’t.  I felt hollowed out, almost in a mild state of shock, but I also felt lucid and proud.  Did it.  Put him to bed.  Not even a real dad with an actual son and I can still rock’em to sleep if a baby needs to go to bed.  Fuck.  Yeah.

I have another step to take, though.  But I can do this, too.  I must and I will, even though it won’t be easy.  Recently our close friends gave birth to a baby girl and even though I see them all the time, I have yet to meet her.  I want to.  I want to be a wonderful uncle to her and  to cherish her amazing existence along with her parents.  But I’m scared.  I’m scared of the raw sadness I am going to feel when I hold that infant in my arms.  I’m scared of the loss I’m going to feel when I look at her and see her innocent soul bared on her face.  I’m terrified of how her form will fit perfectly in my arms where Silas should have.  I’m horrified of the jealously I feel for all the happy babies and perfect families in the world.

But then I remember to love what I have and so I’m going to kiss her tiny little face and smell her new-baby smell and feel my soul crumple and then blow apart over and over again a million times every instant and somehow I’m going to deal with the fact that this is my life and they are my friends and that is their child.  I will recognize how I love them all so much–maybe more now even with Silas gone–and I’m just going to fucking deal with the fact that they have what I want and that somehow I have to be okay with that.

Gingerly I will return her to her mother’s arms and then I’ll go have a beer with Dad and slowly I will learn how to breathe again.