Today you should be 18 months old. Such a very big age, so very firmly toddler. Walking with bits of talking, chubby hands holding mine on days out in the sun. Proper food, maybe even a proper chair at the table. Probably in your own room, maybe even weaned. Dirt clothes from making mud pies in the garden and a bump on your head where you tried to go up the stairs on your own. Clothes long grown out of and passed along.
That little boy keeps pace with me always, the boy you should have been.
I don’t think of the broken boy, the one still being tube fed, the one who couldn’t swallow and who wouldn’t have learned to talk, or who would have died one night when we didn’t see in time, or maybe chose to see too late. The one who would have put us under more pressure than any of the six of us could have stood, the one who we would have loved fiercely but resented daily.
I hope we did the kindest thing for you Freddie. I hope we made the best of choices for you. I wanted to see you play in the sun, not swelter in a wheelchair or bed for a life not worth living. You made the kindest of choices for us, even though we still miss you daily. Even though it still chokes me to see the space and count up four, not five. Even though looking forwards, to a future that we never planned, means I have to inch away from you, by choice and with intent.
I don’t miss you less, I’m just better at missing you alongside living life.
I haven’t quite known how to tell you, but you have a brother coming. I hope you know. I hope you are pleased. He won’t ever be you, or replace you but life will be different because of him. Whatever happens next, from now on life will always be about you and who came after, the only person in our family who won’t have known you. But you will be my boys – and I’m pleased I’ll always be able to say that. My boys. Whatever happens, for better or worse, I will have had boys. You will always be included, because of him.
Last week I watched a programme and, out of the blue, a man suddenly spoke of his son, who died on your birth date 20 years ago. That very date. That’s how I know you will always be here. It won’t matter how many years pass, you will always be my first boy. I will always find reasons to speak of you. And it will always? because I loved you and you matter to me, no matter how many years or months go by.