I wonder if anybody really gives much thought to what a dad goes through when they lose a child. I have. Twice. I was 19 when I first noticed a grown man mourning the loss of his child. When my brother went outside to tell my dad that my 24 year old brother, his son, was involved in a car crash with life threatening injuries I saw my dad’s shoulders slump down and his face age in a flash. Naturally, everyone consoled my mother first. After my brother died, my dad bore the brunt of his grief in silence for 18 years. For the first year though, as I heard my mom cry herself to sleep almost every night I wondered if anybody had ever noticed just how often my dad went to my brother’s grave.
18 years later, I’ve entered the same sisterhood my mom belongs to. I too have cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion. But then again, so has my husband. When Joaquin was in the hospital for the last time, my usual jovial husband had the sternest look on his face. Nobody could make him smile and if they did it was forcefully so. I was the one that made him realize that our son was no longer in that hospital room. I was the one that held him as he wept. Together, we walked hand in hand ready to make the most difficult decision of our lives. He was the one that brought me my sweet boy to hold that one last time. I’ll never forget the sight of my 6’2 husband carrying our sweet Joaquin to me with tears in his eyes. He put his pain aside and gave me our child to hold as he and Alejandro wept by my side. He let me hold him until the very end.
I have heard him. I see him. He laughs now but when he does I can see him thinking of Joaquin. Everything he does has Joaquin on his mind. Joaquin and Paul shared the same personality. Joaquin and Paul were jokesters. They could get you mad but you couldn’t stay mad at them for long. Alejandro and I are nowhere like he and Joaquin. Alejandro and I are sensitive thinkers. We don’t like to rough house and are not much for sarcasm. There is not a shadow of a doubt that Paul loves Alejandro just as much as he does Joaquin. It’s just in a different way. It’s like the time that I was freaked out about having another baby after Alejandro was born because I didn’t know that I could love him as much. My mom laughed at me and explained that a good parent can have 10 children and have just enough love for all of them…they’re just all a different type of love for each different type of child. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Since our family was just us four, it was a perfectly divided household. Daddy and Joaquin. Mommy and Alejandro. Often though, we would switch teams. Joaquin always slept next to mommy. And Alejandro loves to share “fart” jokes with daddy because he knows how much I loathe the word.
As much as Paul loves Alejandro, he’s lost his little teammate in Joaquin. But now, Paul is on our team. It feels different to him, I’m sure. Paul would rough house with Joaquin to no end. He would throw him up in the air or throw him on the bed with such a playful force that would leave this momma wincing but would have Joaquin laughing so hard and saying “More dada, more!” All that is gone now. But Alejandro is being a good sport these days. At such a young age, he’s already learning to put his pain aside to support the ones we love – selflessness in is truest form. I have noticed that he lets his daddy throw him on the bed or wrestle with him on the floor. It doesn’t come naturally to Alejandro to play this way but because he loves his daddy, he will always welcome him on his team with open arms.