Twenty-seven years ago, I was in the delivery room with a very worried wife, a group of dedicated, compassionate nurses and a douche bag doctor. My wife was 7 months pregnant and going into labor. Christopher Thomas Bradford came into my life that day. He was beautiful. Shock of dark hair, olive complected, bright blue eyes … and he was dead. Stillborn. Who knows what happened. The pregnancy had been going fine as far as I can recall. But somehow, for some reason, the umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around his neck and he died. When he was delivered, as a stunned father and his wife were trying to take in the fact that our world had just been shattered into a billion tiny, soul shredding shards, the douche bag commented that “this baby’s been dead for a while” an walked off.
I was so shocked I just stood there dumbfounded. How heartless can you be? I know you’re an Army doctor and your making pennies compared to what you could be making on the outside, but for F**KS Sake man, have you NO compassion?
I had to call my mom and dad and in-laws and break the news to them. I know they wanted to help, be there … do … something, but we were in Germany and, for all intents and purposes, alone … together. The next few days were a blur. Somehow, I don’t remember why or how, a stuffed bunny found it’s way into our lives. Danna latched onto it and wouldn’t let it go. We cried, not really comforting each other, but dealing with our pain as individuals. Hell, we had only been married a little over a year. We were still learning to be a couple.
We made arrangements, or they were made for us, to fly home and bury my baby … my first born. I honestly cant tell you what that was like. I remember thinking I had to be strong because that’s what men do. I had to be there to let Danna grieve. I didn’t want my dad to see me and think I was weak because I was losing it even though I couldn’t concentrate on a damned thing because someone was sticking a flaming torch full of glass shards into my gut and twirling it back and forth. How young and stupid I was.
We did what people do. We buried Chris in Cooper Cemetery and went back to Germany to pick up our lives. We sucked it up and carried on. But every day since then, EVERY DAMNED DAY since then, I think about him. It really gets bad when it gets closer to his birthday. I wonder. What would he be like? What music would he listen to? What would my life have been like with him in it these 27 years later? What kind of man would he have grown up to become? I wonder …
I also HATE that I wonder. Why? Because life, as is its wont, marched on. A little more than a year later Josh was born. He’s 25 now … 26 in November. A couple of years later Ryan joined our happy trio and made us a quad. He just turned 23 last week. I love my two boys … young men … dearly. I am proud of the men they have become and the lives they lead. I know that had Chris lived, we probably would have stopped there and Ryan would never have been born and hard as I try to imagine, I can’t conceive of a life without Ryan.
I coached their bowling team when they were younger. They were accepted into the French Immersion program in elementary school so I took four years of French to be able to help them out if they needed it. I took them out of school to go to the early matinee … The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman and many, many more. They were and continue to be the biggest source of pride in my life. I love them so …
Chris, I know you would have been a fine man. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see that happen. You will always be my first son and I will always hold a special place in my heart for you. I think you would like your brothers. With a smile, I imagine the joyous chaos that our lives would have been with you in it. The madness and mayhem we would have caused, together, as the years passed. Mom would’ve been out-manned, outnumbered and out of her mind trying to deal with all of us. She would have loved it. Good times, man.
So. here we are. Life moves on. Seems to be picking up speed these past few years. Must be one of the side effects of passing the half-century mark. I’ll wake up tomorrow and go to work, do my chores, have dinner with the family, watch a hockey game and maybe some baseball and all will be well. But know that you will be on my mind. Happy Birthday and rest peacefully.