Nik can only verbalize a couple of words and string together letter sounds. When he does vocalize, it always sounds kind of breathy, like he has mild laryngitis. Actually, he might; we’re not sure how much damage may have been done to his vocal chords as a result of being on a ventilator for so long. But I digress…One of the words Nik can say with some degree of consistency now is “Mama.” It melts my heart every time he says it, despite the fact that he only ever says it with prompting. Like tonight.
Earlier this evening, Nik and I were playing and laughing together. I leaned over to kiss him on the forehead –just because I can. I always tell him how much I love him when I do that. I don’t know, maybe I’m making up for all those lost days of his infancy when I couldn’t just scoop him up in my arms and smother him with kisses for fear of dislodging tubes and intravenous lines or possibly upsetting his tiny and fragile body. All I know is showering my son with affection is an addiction I just can’t quit. I don’t want to until he forces me to stop!
After kissing his head and telling him I love him, I asked Nik if he could say “I love you, Mama.” He leaned down to his talker and hit the sequence of icons to tell me. I smiled, but I wanted more. I pushed. “No, baby, can you say it with your voice? With your mouth?” as I laid a finger on his lips. “Can you say, ‘Mama, I love you’?” I knew he wouldn’t or couldn’t but I had to try.
He looked at me and grinned and whispered his breathy, disjointed “Ma-ma” and then kissed me softly on the lips. I laughed and said “Do kisses mean ‘I love you’?” He tipped his hand in his own rendition of yes in sign language. “Can you say it again, baby?” I asked. He leaned toward me and put his face up to mine; I felt the whisper of an angel wing on my lip and heard him rasp “Ma-ma” once again.
In the instant that I blinked, he was whirling away from me toward his LeapPad books, humming the Spongebob Squarepants theme. Don’t ask.
A few hours later, not too long after I’d put Nik to bed and sat in the dark listening to his gentle snores, the telephone rang. It was my husband’s employer; Niksdad was asleep so I took a message. They had called to update Niksdad on the condition of one of his patients who had gone to the hospital the day before.
Shaking, I went upstairs and kissed my baby one more time and let the tears fall.
Somewhere tonight, another mother of another child with special needs kissed her boy for the last time. My heart aches for her pain.
Tonight, I am grateful for every kiss, every sigh and snuggle I have with my precious boy. Hug your children tight. Cherish every moment.