The countdown begins…

On November 2nd, 1997, I had finished watching a football game at home. Thirty weeks pregnant, I realized not only was I exhausted, but I hadn’t felt the baby move in some time. It was getting late on a Sunday night and though I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, the doctor insisted I go to the hospital.

Dr. Duchin: With anyone else, I’d see them in the morning. You, I’ll meet you at the hospital.

So I left the now ex-husband at home to care for the Rachel, then three and a half, and drove myself to the hospital. Soon enough, we discovered I was in premature labor, the baby of indeterminate gender was in distress, and I’d be taking an ambulance and a ferry to Vermont. At ¬†some ridiculous time like 3:42am, I had an emergency c-section. I was beyond exhausted. I’d had a boy, which shocked me. And it wasn’t until the shift change and a new nurse arrived around 9am that I learned he’d survived.

Born at a whopping 2lbs 10oz, Keenan became the little boy I never knew I always wanted. Over time, I shortened the nickname until he became simply: the boy. We still call him that.

Really, I’d always believed I was meant to be a girl mom. I’m not really into sports. I like bows and nail polish. I love pastels and purple. What the heck would I do with a little boy? (Rumor had it, they liked none of these things.)

Two weeks into his hospital stay, Keenan ended up with some mystery ailment that caused him to stop breathing twenty-eight times in one day. The doctors warned that though they had taken blood cultures, they might not be able to determine what was wrong with him before it was too late. I cried, of course, then I dried my tears and decided I wasn’t losing another baby. He’d stop breathing and I’d say his name and stir him to life again. The doctors and nurses were amazed. Obviously, he lived.

Not only did he live, but he grew and thrived. He taught me how to be a boy mom. It was easy since he was so laid back. Nothing stressful about being around him. While Rachel is the life of the party, the center of attention, Keenan is quiet, reserved. So much so, I worried he’d disappear as the middle child, suffer some secret jealousy. That never happened. Instead, he and Kenna have this special affection that warms me. Once very small, he’s now huge, towering over me. ¬†Huge may be misleading. I’ve tried to fatten the boy up, but he may still have to go to fat camp before starting the Marines on September 12th.

I’m not sure if it’s age or reality setting in, but I’ve become very sentimental. Just the other day, tears pricked my eyes as I watched him graduate from high school. It was quite the feat. The boy suffers from being smart and lazy. It’s a horrible debilitating combination that often leads to low grades and free time spent hiding in his room while playing video games. I don’t buy them. He has a father and now a job for that. PS. I’d like to thank his girlfriend, Kristen, without whom he might have no reason to leave his room. We love you, girl!

Don’t get me wrong, Keenan is one of a kind. He’s the best combination of boy I could ever imagine. I tried to keep him on the right path. I refused to let him have toy guns because I always believed there was nothing to imagine with them, but death. Keenan showed me. He’s joining the military so he can play with all the guns. Lesson learned.

Really, I should’ve seen it coming. The boy has always been incredibly loving, caring, and as he aged, super protective. He still hugs me and tells me he loves me…almost as much as he loves our kitties and his little sister. I’ll take it. At the age of six, Keenan pulled me aside and we had this conversation.

Keenan: Mom, do you think I’ll be a good husband some day?

Honestly, how could he not? Clearly this was something that mattered to him. Ah, but I worried in the tween years when Rachel teased him about juggling girlfriends. Then high school. And Kristen. I love watching them together. I love the balance they have, the way they are so different, but the same. I love the way he loves her. She’s pretty special, too, the way she shares him with Kenna.

So you really can’t blame me for worrying about his departure, wondering when we’ll see him again, and struggling to make sure he’s prepared all while squeezing as many memories in as possible. We’ve had our last family vacation, celebrated his last prom, stockpiled everything he may need for…years. I’ve been snapping pictures left and right.

The boy has tolerated every moment of it, maybe even embraced it some. At the moment, I feel pretty good about things. I’m so proud of the man Keenan is becoming. It’s not just about who he is when I’m watching, it’s about how he acts when I’m not. Sure, he swears like a sailor when he thinks I’m not listening. I can live with that. Yes, he kisses his mother with that mouth. Ah, but he has a kind heart and a gentle way with everything smaller than him.

We used to call him the animal whisperer. It wasn’t uncommon to come home and discover some rogue lizard had found its way into the house and onto Keenan’s lap while he watched television. The kitties LOVE him. Poor Pepper is going to be broken hearted when he leaves. We’ll comfort each other, if she lets me. Oh, and Kenna. Most of all, I hope Kristen doesn’t become a stranger. I’d love it if she were more like the rest of my girl. I about have to peel off Kenna and Rachel.

The boy filled a hole in my life. His departure will leave a hole in my heart. First with the thirteen weeks without a visit. Thirteen. Whole. Weeks. Then, he could be anywhere. What will happen to us? He’s not one for phone calls. They are all business, clear, concise, and to the point. The same for his text messages.

Hopefully our relationship will evolve. I’m trusting in this, in the strength of our bond which began long before he was born. I’m believing the sound of my voice will still stir in him the strength he needs to survive. And I’m holding fast to the family ties which are about more than blood and biology.

Go out into the world, boy. We’ll be here, loving you, ready and waiting, filled with pride in your accomplishments. You’ve served our family for years. We’ll gladly share you with the rest of the country. Never forget where you came from, or that you always have a home. May your career path be everything you’ve searched for. May you find great fulfillment and never have to jump out of a helicopter. (Seriously, who does that?!) Go make the world a better place with your brand of magic. Thank you for being you. You changed me in all the very best ways…except my stomach. You owe me a tummy tuck. Kidding. Mostly. Ah but most of all…a quote from one of your favorite books:

I’ll like you forever. I’ll love you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

Keenan, I hope you know the best part of my life has been raising you (and your sisters). I’m so honored to have been your mom. The worst part of my life is learning to let you go. Be patient with me. I’ve spent years trying to keep you alive, safe, healthy, happy, and secure. This is hard for me. I watch you and know you’re doing the right thing. Go be awesome.

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Wife, mother, blogger, author, foodie, reader, traveler, and friend.

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