The pregnancy test was one that turned from white to blue if the result was positive. It had been sitting in the top drawer of my dresser for weeks, and I was waiting for the perfect time to use it when I had the house to myself. The stick turned gray, which allowed me some more time to be in denial and continue living my teenage life.
A few months later, after the denial faded, I became the new mom to a baby boy, Tyler. He was born with the Johnny Carson show playing in the background at a hospital in Northampton, Mass. It was so cold that day, and I remember the icy roads angering my contractions with each bump.
Tyler is the quintessential unanswered prayer. I was seventeen and still in high school, and very much a child myself. I remember after a very long labor and delivery, around four a.m., a kind nurse came into the room.
“Do you want to feed your baby?” I didn’t understand the question. Who would say no to that?
She handed me a small glass bottle which held less than four ounces of formula. The room was peppered with soft light, and the hospital was quiet as I held a tightly swaddled baby Tyler and fed him his bottle. His eyes were wide as he studied my face, brows furrowing every now then, fingers slow-dancing in the new world’s air. We were both kids looking to each other for answers. I didn’t even know how to change a diaper.
That was thirty years ago today, but I remember the moment so vividly, the lighting, the nurse, and me and my new son alone for the first time since we met. I wasn’t afraid.
As the years passed, Tye quickly showed his intelligence and deep love for sports. As a tot, he wore a curly mop on his head and his lips didn’t look like they fit his slim face. It was difficult to say no to him when he looked up at you with his big blue eyes like a puppy with serious game. In some ways, we grew up together.
“What do you want for dinner?”
“Fries and Coke!”
I didn’t always make the best choices for Tyler, but we learned together.
He loved Barney, McDonalds, Power Rangers, but more than anything he cherished the New England Patriots. He knew the stats and players and was inconsolable when they lost, which was quite a bit back then. I knew early to let him be until the despair passed.
He thought shoes were called “shoeson” and when Barney was on TV he would say “Buy a Nissan.” He knew the names of all the wrestlers and wanted Tommy, the Power Ranger, and when they were sold out and my brothers painted a different one white, he knew. I don’t even think he was three yet.
He excelled in school, in sports, especially football, and loved his friends. The homecoming king for his high school’s senior class, Tye was thriving. He went on to N.C. State in Raleigh where he graduated with an English degree concentrating on reading, writing, and rhetoric. (Tye always knew how to use words.) He didn’t love college or the big city life but coming home most weekends helped, me and him, and Raleigh helped him grow.
It’s an odd thing to lean on your child, but he was born a sturdy force, like a springtime oak tree or a 4,000 year-old pyramid. It was just the two of us for so long, even after Roger joined our family because he deployed so much. It turned back into the two of us after Roger passed, as we were the only adults in the house, mourning and relearning how to live, making bad decisions together, and figuring out how to find the straight line again.
Happy birthday, Tuto, my first born, my savior, I love you. Have a good lunch.