I awoke this afternoon to news of a terrorist attack during the Boston Marathon, this country’s premier track event. Runners from across the globe come to Boston with the hope of just finishing the race, forget about winning. The elite of the elite of course, dream of taking home the grand prize, usually to another country.
I went about my daily chores with MSNBC in the background providing audio coverage I could hear in the kitchen and video coverage I could see when I sat down to eat. (Yes, I am actually eating. I’m just sort of forcing myself.) The attack itself is tragic, but hearing that an eight-year-old little boy lost his life is just devastating. As Rachel Maddow is now reporting, there are several other children with very serious injuries, some of whom may well lose one or two limbs.
I have wanted to have children since I was a child. I got pregnant while in undergrad, but lost the child almost as soon as I found out s/he was inside of me. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I knew that I was pregnant even before I went to see a doctor. When the requisite blood work was done, the hormone indicating pregnancy was higher than it would be if I weren’t pregnant, but not high enough to signal a viable pregnancy. Sure enough, within hours, my baby was gone. The child was Glenn’s. I think I’ve told this story here before. If I have, forgive the duplication.
My point is that I can imagine what the parents of the injured children are going through. It is a pain like no other. There is little to do except sit with your child; hold his/her hand; pray to whatever higher power there may or may not be, and; will the child’s body to heal. In other words, parents are totally helpless. It’s up to the nurses, doctors and the child’s physical and metaphysical strength to determine the outcome. For at least one set of parents, the outcome was as bad as it gets.
I have never had a living, breathing child born after being carried inside of me for nine months. My baby . . . our baby . . . never drew a breath. I never felt the flutter of him or her moving nor having his or her head pressing against my bladder and having to run to the restroom. I didn’t have the privilege of choosing furniture for a nursery that I’ve painted, or had painted, in a beautiful sky blue and yellow. Nor could I pick out onesies in preparation for bringing him or her home from the hospital. The only thing I had was the blood of losing our baby. Even then, there were few signs I’d actually miscarried.
My body gave hints of carrying someone else inside of it. Just hints, but pretty significant ones. Nevertheless, I knew. I was so afraid because I was so young. I worried that my parents and other relatives would be disappointed in me. Our family, until relatively recently, didn’t have unwed mothers. Even now, the only unwed mothers come from one branch of the family tree. I was considering in vitro or simply buying the “genetic material” from a clinic in San Francisco I’d scouted some years ago, but had to drop all plans when I learned I needed a second operation on my spine. As afraid as I was when I got knocked up in undergrad, and as terrified as I was at the thought of Glenn’s reaction, I had every intention of keeping our baby even if it meant s/he became MY baby. I am very much in favor of choice, but I wanted that child. If I wanted him/her so badly, why did I feel relieved when I miscarried? I wish I could answer that question, but I can’t because I don’t know.
What I do know is that I can feel the terror of those parents anxiously awaiting good news from doctors in charge of their children’s cases. I feel the longing and the empty space in the lives of the parents and loved ones of the little boy who was killed. I feel the rage caused by some maniac with no regard for life and willing to kill people who’d done nothing but stand on the sidelines of a race to cheer the runners on. How much more basic a scene can there be? But that’s one of the reasons why the bomber chose this particular target. Twenty-six miles is a long route to secure. Inevitably, there will be holes in that security. The bomber found at least two and probably three. One of those holes was near a little eight-year-old boy who will never see the inside of his bedroom again; will never be held in his mother’s arms again; will never learn to drive; never get grounded for staying out too late; never go off to college; never find his first love; never get married, and; never have children of his own. The bomber didn’t just kill one little boy for whatever cause he was protesting. He killed a family’s dreams for their child and halted a branch of their family tree as if with a chainsaw.
It took me over 20 years to grieve the loss of the child I would have had. Glenn just learned about it last week, not that he particularly gives a damn, but he had a right to know because I never told him even after we’d both graduated, carried on a long distance relationship, his marriage, continuing to see each other from time to time and then the forever break-up. We were similar to the movie Same Time Next Year for a while, only we did manage to get in a couple of times a year. Anyway, as I said, he doesn’t care, which is kind of what I expected. I care. I care because that baby was inside of me if even for a little while. I care because I never had a chance to know him or her as they grew up. I care because I didn’t have the honor of sitting next to a hospital bed holding his or her hand when s/he was sick nor worrying nor feeling jubilant when s/he got better. I wanted all of those moments, good, bad and horrible. But for whatever reason, I will probably never get the chance. My branch of the family tree will end with me.
What happened today is horrific. That the bomber killed at least one child makes it more so. For all we know, that kid could have invented a truly clean energy source when he grew up. Maybe he’d be the next Steve Jobs or the next Stephen Hawking. The future was his to grab and hold onto as tightly as possible. Now, the only thing he’ll have is a funeral and, perhaps, a grave. His parents will have holes in their hearts that nothing and no one will ever fill. They will cry for the rest of their lives as something or someone reminds them of the little boy they lost. That’s the part I do know. I don’t know it in the same way, but I know it nonetheless. I can think of nothing more sad than the wailing of a mother for the baby she lost and can never replace. May the spirits of the little boy killed this afternoon and the spirit of the child I lost both find new homes where they can be happy, loved and carefree as long as possible. In other words, a place where they get to live through their childhoods and, like other children, grow into adulthood and families of their own. Peace be with you little ones. Peace be with you.