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Connor's Gift

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Once upon a time I was given a wonderful gift. I received this gift when I thought I’d never get another. His name was Connor. I didn’t know at the time, but Connor was a temporary prize. Sent to teach a lesson but not to keep. Today is not an anniversary or a birthday. It is just a day I choose to reflect on what I had and what I lost. And what I learned.

A beautiful baby who grew to be a handsome toddler. Dark, glossy hair and big, blue eyes. A smile that denied words. When I think back, I always remember those three things most of all. But there was so much more. At times I worry that if I don’t write these things down, I will somehow forget how special he was and lose the tiny details that made him that way. So occasionally I reminisce and put pen to paper, as it were. And every once in a while I go back and read what I have written. Most often what I write doesn’t do him justice but that’s my lack, not his. I don’t usually share what I write but I felt compelled to today for some reason. Today is the day I am remembering a few things from the last six months of the four and a half years he was granted.

My favorite memory involves his love for basketball. Michael Jordan was his idol. Honestly, you would think he was a pro player when you watched his little hands dribble the ball. On the day I am thinking, he was playing with his Uncle Steve, my sister’s husband. Uncle Steve is a large man, standing at least 6’2”, with a deep, booming voice. You’d think that the kids would be afraid of him but they gather around him like bees on clover. And he loves to torment the little ones (in a good way) with his strange sense of humor. The torment today…holding the ball out of Connor’s reach. Well, Connor put up with it for a little while, giggling and dancing around his adored uncle. Finally, he could take no more. He went behind Steve and bit him on the butt. Hard. If Steve had been wearing jeans, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but, this day he was wearing sweat pants. Ouch! Intending to scold my little biter, I could only laugh until my sides hurt. Thanks for the laughter, little guy.

I also remember one day Connor came into the house from playing because he was hungry. I sat him down at the table with a bowl of cereal and as he ate, I asked him where his siblings were. “Still outside,” he said. “What are they doing outside?” I asked. Without even slowing the movement of spoon to mouth, he responded, “They’re painting the fence.” My husband and I looked at each other incredulously, before rushing outside to interrupt the moment of creativity before it got too far out of hand. It occurred to us afterward that Connor had thrown his sibs under the bus without even stopping to breathe. I guess it was payback for the evening before when they all put their lima beans on his plate so they wouldn’t have to eat them. Good move, buddy. Proud of you for that one.

There is so much more that I remember. He learned to ride his bike without training wheels the weekend before he died. Wow, he was proud. I have that on video. I remember the special hugs we always shared. I am blessed in that regard as I can feel them now when I hug his nephew, Elijah Connor. I have pictures; the last one taken several months before his death sits on my dresser. And I have my memories that I write down. Oh, I close my eyes and see that impish grin, hear that little voice. I always wonder what he’d be like if he were still here with us today. And without saying why, I constantly tell parents “love your children fiercely and hold them tight”. Because you never know. We didn’t know.

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