Looking back, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have shared a pregnancy with than my friend, Dottie. She uses her grown-up name now. Everyone calls her Dot. But, I knew her when. I’ll always call her Dottie.
From the time we met, we shared lots of things. We shared stories and dreams and worries and fears. When Dottie had to pull (This would be the literal “pull”, not the figurative one.) her husband out of a local bar, I kept the baby. When my son dropped a crystal ashtray on his sister’s head, I called Dottie’s Dad for help. When Dottie’s mother held a Tupperware Party, she knew she could count on me to be there, and when the Datsun pick-up I’d paid $300.00 for wouldn’t start, Dottie gave me the keys to her Pontiac land-yacht.
I was pregnant with my third child. Dottie was carrying number four. We scheduled our prenatal appointments for the same time when we could. Rather than separate exam rooms, the clinic was comprised of one very wide corridor divided into curtained sections just big enough for the midwife, the exam table, and the stirrups. Were it not for those women wearing stethoscopes around their necks, one might have thought they had stumbled into the changing room at a maternity clothing store.
I was instructed to take off my “bottoms” and “hop up on the table” (This would be the figurative “hop”, not the literal one.) while the midwife called on Dottie who waited two curtains away. Resting my hands atop my mountainous abdomen, I tried not to eavesdrop until the words “no heartbeat”, at which point I stopped breathing in an effort to hear every word. My own heart raced as they scheduled the ultrasound that would reveal whether or not Dottie’s baby was alive. And when it came time for my exam, I both wished the midwife would hurry, and wondered how wrong it would be to ask questions. Dottie hadn’t asked many. It was as though she knew.
Her baby was fine, and mine was, too. They arrived just a few weeks apart. Dottie’s son, Carey, was born in April, and my son, Josh, in May.
Three years later, I gave birth to a second son. He split the boy’s birthdays, arriving two weeks after Carey’s and two weeks before Josh’s. For the last twenty-nine years, April has been a time of celebration that began at Easter and ended , appropriately, with Mother’s Day.
Dottie lives in South Georgia now. She might say she could see Jekyll Island from her kitchen window, but that would be because she was trying to convince me to visit, not because she actually could see it. I’ve seen her just once in over ten years.
I did see Carey recently. He’s very tall and looks very much like his father. He celebrated his twenty-ninth birthday a couple of weeks ago, which means Trey’s birthday is this week…Saturday, to be exact.
Only Trey isn’t here to celebrate.
It hasn’t exactly sneaked up on me. It occurred to me in early March, just as it has for the last twenty-six years. It was just a few days after Trey’s memorial service. I hadn’t gone back to work yet. Josh was here and so was Jennifer. We talked about it. We planned it. Somewhere deep down I knew we had to.
And now I don’t want to. I don’t want to like a toddler doesn’t want to eat green beans. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to scream while I cry and then I’ll stomp my feet and no matter what you say I won’t go. I won’t!
Because, he’s not here.
People say things like “He’s not gone. He’s always with you.”
No he’s not. He’s not here because I can’t hug him or smell him or hear him call me “Ma”. I never understood why he did that. No one else ever called me that, just him. He always called me “Ma”. And now no one ever will again.
Who will blow out the candles?