Sunday, June 26, 2005

An unnatural affection for a bear

I just realized it the other night - I have an unnatural affection for a bear. It’s a cheap, not overly good-looking stuffed bear, but I love him. He sits on our bed every day and at night I gently take him over to the chair in the corner where he sits for the night. How do I know I love him? Because, well, other than the fact that I’m pretty sure I’ve kissed him once or twice (have I mentioned I’m 35?) a few nights ago he fell over when I sat him on the chair and I hurried back to sit him back up. The idea of him lying kind of haphazardly on his side all night was too upsetting. I had to fix him.

So that’s how I know.

But why do I love him so? Because he’s the bear who appears in the precious few pictures I have of our sweet little son. 29 pictures. That’s all we have of him – that’s all we’ll ever have of him. But I have the bear.

I didn’t want him at first through. The nurses brought him to me, along with a lock of Thomas’ hair, his hand and footprints, the onesie he was wearing, the blanket they wrapped him in, the knitted bonnet and sweater my Mom made and some pamphlets on infant bereavement. A nurse quietly and gently brought these precious treasures to me just after Thomas died. I’ve been clinging to them ever since.

But not at first. I didn’t want the bear – I’d never seen it before and it was foreign to me. It didn’t belong to Thomas or to me – the nurses had bought it for him, just like the onesie and the blanket. Of course we had clothes for Thomas, but in our sorrow and confusion and shock, they stayed tucked away in the hospital bag I’d so happily packed just days before. All we thought to give them was the bonnet and sweater my Mom knitted. Mint green, lacy and so sweet on my little boy.

I told my beloved to put it all up on the shelf at the end of my hospital bed – away from me. And so there it sat, but only for a while. It wasn’t long before I needed the bear. The horror seemed easier to bear with him tucked under my arm. It was like I was a child – that familiar feeling of snuggling down to sleep with a love-worn stuffed toy tucked in beside me was too hard to resist, even though I didn’t really know this bear. But I knew enough – he’d been with my son.

And so, like everything else that belong to Thomas for the few precious hours he was alive, I’ll cherish that bear – yes, and love him – forever.

I don’t think that’s so wrong. And to be honest, I don’t care if it is.

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