Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mason & Taylor (or this one & that one)

Mason & Taylor,

I decided early on in your senior year that I wouldn’t publicly embarrass you with a bunch of photos when it was time for graduation. Then we had almost 2 weeks of Aunt Melba, your Nana, in a coma. I saw you each holding a hand while standing on either side of her hospital bed, like bookends. Two pieces of a matched set- each strong on your own but even more so when working together. Those two weeks reminded me of how important it is to say what needs to be said when you have a chance. And unfortunately for you, what I need to say requires photos for historical context.

It began before you were even born. In our defense, it was at least in part because we didn’t know if you were boys or girls, only that there were two of you. With a singleton pregnancy the families & friends can just refer to “the baby” & everyone has a pretty good indication of who you are talking about. So it began before you were born… we called you “this one & that one”.

“Which one do you think is bigger, this one or that one?” We would all peer at the image from the ultrasound & debate each other.

I’m sorry to say got worse for a while after you were born.

“Have you given this one a bottle?”

“Yes, but I haven’t changed that one.”

For the most part it ended by the time you were up & walking because by that time (if not by your appearance, by your personality) we could tell you apart. Although I have to admit, we considered pulling the old nicknames back out during the brief time around 18 months when Mason insisted that both of your names were Mason.

“Who are you?”

“I Mason.”

“Who is he?”

“Him Mason.”

You may wonder why I am explaining all of the “this one & that one” history. It is actually an effort on my part to explain why your entire family sees you differently than the rest of the world. No matter how grown up you are there will still always be “this one & that one” although it is no longer about you being identical twins. For us, it is now about the speed with which the last 18 years have flown by. 

It seems somewhat impossible, which is why when the rest of the world sees this one:

Your family sees that one...

And Taylor's response to a hug in this one...

Was likely payback for Mason's response in that one...

You have clearly always loved this:

As evidenced by that:

And when your mom was laughing & taking these...

She probably thought about laughing & taking this one... I only wish the others felt like this one. Ouch.

When this one happened last fall...

I thought about that one from 16 years ago...

The truth is that even if I occasionally have to shake my head & rub my eyes to see that you are really grown, I don’t worry about you. I don’t worry because you have each other. Even with all of the fighting (not just words, the FIGHTING) you love each other more than you will likely ever let on. Although you have always competed with each other, that competitive spirit will serve you well over your life. I remember when you were on the football field your freshman year & Taylor ran a long touchdown. On the other team’s next possession, Mason intercepted a pass & ran for his own long touchdown. Then he turned & pointed down the field.

The fans around us assumed it was directed toward the other team, but we all knew better.

He was pointing at Taylor.

“If you can do it, so can I.”

This one from your senior year...

Reminds me of that one from kindergarten...

This competition with each other has, to the detriment of other unsuspecting people given the appearance that it would be easy to get one of you mad at the other. Oh, you will still definitely go after each other… but only until the moment that anyone else messes with one of you. It’s just never going to be a fair fight with one of the Bailey boys because you will never be dealing with just one of the Bailey boys.

As much as you fight, as I said- I don’t worry about you because you have each other. At the end of your senior football season, when Mason broke his leg during a game- Taylor was the first one there. When Mason awoke after emergency surgery in the middle of the night, he immediately wanted to see Taylor.

These are the reasons I don’t worry about you. You have each other. I look at my boys & watch them fuss & fight with each other & hope that they grow to defend & support & protect each other the way you do. When we found out that we would be getting three little boys to adopt I was nervous about what you would think, until I got a random text one day.

“Aunt Sherry, when those boys move in with you, let us know if anyone gives them any trouble.”

They were immediately part of your “club” & although I never thought I could love you more- seeing you play with them & how you immediately were concerned with their safety & happiness proved me wrong about my capacity for love.

It is not something I mind being wrong about. Not at all. Speaking of being wrong- I suppose it is time now, on this day that you graduate from high school, that we recognize that no matter how much we think we see this one…

It's time to see that one.

I love you & I'm so proud of you both.
- Aunt Sherry

Friday, May 15, 2015

Time Machine: Again

I wrote the following post in December of 2013, but wanted to share it again in celebration of this amazing woman pulling off another miracle. My Aunt Melba is being released from the hospital tomorrow after 13 days in the same Critical Care Unit mentioned in the original post. This time she spent 6 days on life support & 6 days unconscious & on oxygen. 

Then she woke up. 


My boys have been with me for almost 2 1/2 years now. My nephews will be graduating from high school in 6 days. And I am grateful beyond words that she will be with us to see it all. Thank you, Aunt Melba- for being the most stubborn person I know. And for waking up for us. Again. 

Here is the post from December 5, 2013:

We stand side-by-side in the passenger seat of her car, my big sister & I; holding sticky, sweaty, candy-covered hands & squealing with delight. 

“Again, again, Aunt Melba! Let’s do it again!”

It is 1978 & my sister & I have the good fortune of being with our childless aunt absent the weary gaze of our parents. We have our heads stuck out the sunroof of Aunt Melba's car on a freezing cold evening & she is patiently driving up & down the driveway. I look down at her & see the playful expression on her face, bathed in the fading light of the evening sky. She puts the car in reverse, smiling as she looks in the rear view mirror to begin again. And again, until the street lamp comes on & we finally collapse in a fit of laughter.

She is the identical twin of our mother, who is also an amazing woman although her position as our actual parent has forced her into the unenviable role of bad cop to Aunt Melba’s perpetual good cop. Having a childless aunt was one of my favorite memories of childhood. Think about it. They are as blinded by unconditional love as any parent, yet have an almost infinite level of patience & a rather blurry view of what is or isn’t age appropriate. Discipline is routinely mocked by the childless aunt or uncle. 

When my nephews were born, Aunt Melba & I had a talk about my new role as the childless aunt. She was very matter-of-fact in her assessment, waving her hand in the general direction of my sister’s hospital bed. “You just have to say yes to anything she says no to, but wait until she is out of earshot.”  Laura clearly wasn’t at that moment because she overheard & I immediately recognized the wary expression on my sister’s face as she looked back & forth between the two of us. It was the same look Mom was always giving Aunt Melba. I considered the love Laura & I had for Melba as we grew up & I looked at my tiny nephews in their bassinets. This was going to be fun. And I have to say, 16 years later that it has been. I have heard "again, again let's do it again" my fair share of times.

The memory of standing with Laura in Aunt Melba’s car with laughter trailing behind us out the sunroof, accompanied me in the passenger seat as I drove an hour to the hospital at 1:00am last December. My family was coming from the other direction-  Mom, my brother-in-law & nephews in the car. My sister was in the ambulance with Aunt Melba. I look up at the night sky through my sunroof, push away the laughter of 1978 & try to piece together the phone call from my mother.

She said stroke. And heart attack. All I could really hold onto was my mom doing CPR until the ambulance arrived.

It was the longest 24 hours of my life. There were hushed discussions with doctors. We were told to say goodbye. Call the family. Turn off the machines.  We waited. I reluctantly returned home late the next night to see the boys, who had only been with us for a few weeks at that point, knowing that I would be awakened by the phone call nobody wants. 

I awoke with the sun the next day, reaching for my phone before opening my eyes.

“She’s awake.” Mom said, her voice shaking with hope.

I walked into her hospital room an hour and a half later, to find Aunt Melba smiling triumphantly as she ate breakfast. Nurses kept poking their heads into her ICU room & saying, “I heard, but I didn’t believe it…” The doctor arrived & he was baffled. She smiled at him, pleased with herself.

She looked at me as if she was getting away with something.

She went back to work a few weeks later. She is fine. Better than fine, actually. She’s still here & she’s still the same Aunt Melba. 

Almost a year later, as we sit crowded in the bleachers to watch my sister’s sixteen-year-old twins play football, sometimes I watch her as she sits in the fading evening sun as the stadium lights come on. I see that twinkle in her eye & look on her face. As if we are under the street light in front of her house in 1978. And she is definitely getting away with something.

Again, again, Aunt Melba. Let’s do it again. All of it.

I love you.