“Today, how far might he have wandered,
My mighty hunter of dragonflies.”
-Lady Kago No Chiyo
Tommorrow, my son should be eight years old.
This was Caemon’s favorite number. I have written of it before. Sometime in his third year, he decided that every series of numbers led to eight. He knew how to count, but he loved throwing in “Eight!” with his sly smile and twinkle in his eye at random intervals in his counting to ten.
But I do not know my eight-year-old son. I do not know what it is to parent an eight-year-old Caemon. What does he like? Is he annoyed by his sister? Who would his friends be? How would he like school? I think of all the things I know about him at three, and it’s so much. Adding five years to that seems like an entire lifetime. It’s more than an entire lifetime when Caemon’s life is the measure.
There is a reaching my brain does to understand who he would be. I look at other kids who were born around the same time. I study their faces, how they are sharpening and wonder how his would have compared. I look at how they speak to one another, what they laugh at, and if this is how his own sense of humor would have evolved too. I watch and I watch as these children grow, as they turn eight, and I hope to catch glimpses of my own eight-year-old son in their eyes, in their clothes, in their smiles. But it’s a fruitless act. Caemon’s chiseled cleft chin would have been his own. His platinum hair would likely have still been white as can be. His sparkling blue eyes would have continued to shine light on his world. But beyond this, I cannot know. I will never know.
And at times I consider that Caemon would have been different too. He underwent serious treatment for his cancer, a bone marrow transplant. He wasn’t really growing as he should have after treatment started. Maybe he wouldn’t have been tall like his peers, like I always thought he would be. But again, this is fruitless. I will never know, can never know.
My son is not eight. He is forever three years and five months.
But I think I know that Caemon would have liked being eight, and I think I know that he would have liked being a big brother to his spark of a little sister. And I think I know that he would have cooked and loved outside and loved music and loved his people as much as he ever did. And I know he would have loved me and looked out for me. It’s the construct I can make of him. It’s my own imaginary age progression sketch made up of far too few memories and a mother’s simple knowing.
Tonight, I took my daughter to the market so that we could buy Caemon’s favorite treats, and I told her, “It’s Caemon’s birthday.” She merrily repeated throughout the store, “Caemon’s Birthday! Caemon’s Birthday!” And she continued in the car on the way home. She stopped after a few moments and said, “Want to go see Caemon. Visit Caemon.” And through my tears, all I could say was, “So do I, baby girl. So do I.”
Happy birthday, my beautiful boy, my chubby cherub, my little crocodile, my firstborn, the brightest light I ever saw—wherever, whomever, whatever you may be. I will always love you.