My son Eric Jr. (6) came out of his bedroom this morning holding a picture that he keeps next to his bed. It is a picture of my brother Jason holding Jr. the day he was born. Jr. told me “I want uncle Jason to sit with me, and since he is sitting with me in this picture it is kind of the same.” He then set it on the table next to him and started to play games. Every couple of minutes I saw Jr look at the picture and sometimes smile, and sometimes he just looked at it blankly. I know what he is feeling as I feel it all the time. He is wishing. He is pretending. He is trying to figure out a way to accept what is happening. My tears, needless to say, have been rolling this morning.
Here is a little history about the day/moment that is captured in this picture: Jr. took his sweet time joining us. We thought it was gonna be any minute for about 12 hours. We let everyone know, and Jason, as well as many other family members and some friends, all came rushing to the hospital to welcome Jr. to the world. There were several people there, but this story is just about my big bro, so I hope you don’t feel left out if you were there. We all sat around waiting. I was in the room with Esja doing everything I could to help her along with the birth of her first child, (which means getting yelled at and standing around feeling helpless) and making trips out to the waiting room to give everyone the updates. Almost all of these updates were “It should be anytime now!”
Jason sat in that waiting room all night. He sat their waiting to meet his nephew, and congratulate his little brother, and sister-in-law. It got later and later, and as midnight hit we were all wondering if it was ever going to happen. Jason was getting worried because he had to work in the morning, and any of you who know him, know he would not miss work if his legs were cut off.
Finally a few hours later the moment came, I rushed out of the room to inform everyone that Jr. was here. As I came out, Jason was leaving. He finally had to go, because to that point there was nothing saying anything had changed from the last several hours. I think that Jr. sensed that and decided to come out and meet his uncle. Jason then proceeded to do the unthinkable. He got on his phone, and told his boss he was going to be late, and then he sat back down and waited to meet Jr.
Once the nurses had completed cleaning up, and Esja and I had a moment to hold our son, we invited the family in. When it came to be Jason’s turn to hold him, he declined. With fear in his eyes, and real concern he told me, “Are you sure it is a good idea? I am not good with these little things.”
I told him it would be fine, and from the first second of holding him, Jr became one of Jason’s favorite people on the planet, as you can see by the picture. He stayed for a while, and sat with us, and smiled at his nephew, and after a bit he left. After staying up all night to support us, he went from the hospital to work, on zero sleep. After work the first thing he did was come see us again. That is just the kind of guy Jason is.
I have had tears in my eyes for a couple of hours now, thinking about how much these two love one another, and how much Jr just wants to see him. To sit with him. To show him how good he is at a new game, or on his new skateboard. How bad Jr. wants to impress his uncle Jason. Thinking about someone else I know that has spent a great deal of his life trying to impress Jason. Much of what I did in life, in one way or another was based on making Jason proud. To see that my son felt the same way about the same man fills me with pride, and also stomps on my heart.
I miss you Jason. I wish things were different. I wish you could sit with my son. I wish you had never gotten on that damn cruise ship. But I am also happy for several things. I am happy to be your brother. I am happy that you have such a bond with my son that even now that you are gone, he has still found a way to just sit with you. And I am happy that your last days on that ship were filled with the love of your wife, and the excitement and adventure of the things you got to do on your trip. Because of this I will just assume that the tears running down my face are split. the ones on the left are born in sorrow, and the ones on the right are tears of joy at having been blessed with you in my life.
UPDATE: I just remembered the final part of Jason’s quote. As I handed Jr to him he said “Are you sure it is a good idea? I am not good with these little things. THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE I WILL BREAK IT.”