My neighbors just adopted a cocker spaniel puppy named Rusty. He was playing in the front yard with them this evening when I saw him for the first time. Rusty is only nine weeks old, with ears nearly as big as my 94 pound German Shepherd's. He is so cute my head could explode. Everyone loves puppies. Puppies, and. . .
Speaking of babies ('babies' was implied), I tried my hand at baby-gift shopping at Babies R Us today. I do try to avoid places like Babies R Us and Petsmart, as I consider them the kind of places people shop to prove they love their babies and/or pets more than people who shop at Target. But, alas, Gideon's jumbo bag of dogfood cannot be found at my local Target, and a friend has registered for her baby girl at Babies R Us, and so I find myself visiting both.
I have braved the baby aisle at Target a number of times since Gabriel's birth and passing, once just this morning in fact. I thought I was prepared. Armed with my pre-printed registry list with the items I intended to purchase circled, I took a deep breath and walked in. To my great surprise, my head started spinning. I'm not sure why I was surprised. I know there is a clear difference between a baby store and Target. I'd obviously been aware that I would have to brace myself. Still, the forceful shock of it all overwhelmed me.
I took a few moments to admire the beautiful fall Carter's dresses strategically placed to be the first thing seen upon entering, and noted with pleasure that this season's color for baby girl apparel seems to be a deep plum. I toyed with the idea of buying one of them though they were not on my friend's registry. Picking items not on the registry is in bad taste, I reminded myself. The idea passed, and I began instead to consider buying every item on the display in hopeful, desparate anticipation of my own baby girl that I hope to have someday. But then I thought, "No, I can't hide that much stuff from Ben." So, I headed for the back of the store, pausing to admire the cribs and picking out the one I would want for my nursery and when I discovered my intended items in that department weren't easily found, I headed instead to my alternative selections in the baby bath section.
The gifts were found and I could feel the tears coming on. I soothed myself buy eyeing the tag that said my chosen gifts were 40% off, but the sale could only stave off my emotions for a while. I made my purchase, had the good sense to remember to tuck the gift receipt in the bag, then made a dash for the door.
My tears flowed freely when I caught up with my dad, who had also been in Babies R Us with my mom making their own purchase. He hugged me. I sobbed into his t-shirt. He handed me a hankie and I sobbed into that too, comforted by the fact that not only could I rely on my dad but I could rely on his having a hankie too.
I suppose it all wouldn't be so bad if I didn't now have to face the shower that this gift was intended for. Actually, this gift was for a girl, for a friend whose shower is next weekend. The immediate concern is the baby shower I am attending tomorrow. Tomorrow's shower is for my cousin, who is having a baby boy. Her gift was already purchased, and includes a set of caps just like the set I bought for Gabriel. The tears threatened to flow then too but they were guarded in place as practice for the big day tomorrow. I cannot possibly miss Nicole's baby shower. She and I have both had a rough year, she having lost her dad and my Uncle Frank less than two weeks before Gabriel was diagnosed. Her son Jalen is supposed to be our beacon of light, one of the bright spots in a year that has been fraught with bittersweet moments. Nicole is the kind of woman who sends text messages to me the night before her own baby shower saying she would completely understand if I couldn't go tomorrow. It's BECAUSE she is the kind of woman who completely understands that I cannot NOT go. Nicole made the short trek from another town to attend Gabriel's prayer shower and again to attend his funeral, and she didn't make excuses that a funeral would be difficult for her after having to plan and attend her own father's funeral earlier that year. We've made a habit this year of being strong for each other, and of drawing strength from each other, and of my many habits I would consider this one of the better.
Besides, won't there always be babies, and baby showers, and birthday parties, and any number of social situations that are challenging. I recall with regret the year I skipped a friend's wedding because I was so depressed that I hadn't found that special someone of my own. When I saw her empty seat at my own wedding, a namecard still holding her place, even knowing she hadn't missed my wedding out of retribution I couldn't help but be sorry for being so selfish those years ago.
The truth is out now, I suppose. It's not been all rainbows and faith and hope since Gabriel left us. Tomorrow is his three month birthday, and the day will not be spent the way I would have hoped. It will be a painful and difficult day, as much as it will be a celebration of both Gabriel's and Jalen's lives. And it will be another day of learning to live with the loss of my son, a loss I may never get used to and may spend the rest of my life learning to live with.