After he was born, my mom, still just a kid herself at 19, cried a lot. I spent most of the first few weeks at relative's houses while my parents vigilled at the hospital. I specifically recall the day they told me he was coming home. In my childish grasp, I understood that to mean he was better and I would now have the baby brother and playmate I had longed for.
He was fragile, like most babies. He was adorable and smelled immaculately fresh. Mom would disconnect him from his tubes long enough to take pictures of the proud big sister holding the little bundle. The way my face is lit up, beaming, in those pictures- I couldn't have been happier. Every morning, before my parents were awake, I would wake up and run to his room and peek on him in his crib, like a new toy I couldn't wait to get out of the box.
One morning, I hurried in, excitedly, to find him in a "mess". Thinking nothing of it, I went to mom's room and told her that "Tony had pooped all over himself." In an immediate knee- jerk reaction, like she was expecting it, she jumped up and ran to check on him and called 911 in one swoop. She knew what was coming and knew the signs and knew that the time had come. She was level-headed and a pillar of strength. I don't remember dramatic tears or hysteria- it was efficient- just like a drill we had practiced a hundred times before.
I was being ushered over to my neighbor's house as I watched the paramedics rush into mine. In my limited knowledge, I was frightened and saddened, but not confused. I felt guilty for not peeking in on him earlier, hoping against hope that I could have stopped it from happening.
At that point, though, I understood what had happened. I understood that my brother was sick and that he would be going to heaven. I suppose my mom must have explained that to me to some extent in preparation of these events, but I don't remember.
In the days following, the house was full of people, but you could hear a pin drop. It was daylight and sunny out, but the curtains were drawn to match the mood in the house. I remember people sitting on the black leather sofas just staring at each other like no one really knew the right thing to say. It is a silence and a weight that I will remember feeling my entire life.
Tony lived only 6 weeks. My mom has since filled me in on medical aspects of his condition, the multiple birth defects that he suffered from, the fact that they didn't think he would live for even one week, and how when he came home, it was for him to die, peacefully.
My memories are fully that of the 4 year old I turned the week he died. These are memories that will stay with me forever- for good, bad, or indifferent or even inconsistent. It's just one event that shaped me into the person I am today. It's a sadness that I will feel as long as I live. I have empathy for my parents in their pain of losing a child. I have a selfish pain of me never getting to know my brother. An unending yearning to know what he would have been like, looked like, and what we could have shared.