Friday, April 17, 2015

The Son I Never Had

I'm not sure why this figment of my imagination has been on my mind in recent weeks. Perhaps the news has caused it, with all of these stories of women being persecuted over miscarriages or being denied medication they need because someone else thinks they have the right to stand in judgment of their situation.

I walked in those shoes, a very long time ago, when we spent six years trying to have a child. I know what it is like to be unhealthy and not whole, and to feel "less than" because you're not able to function like a woman. It's bad enough to be female - in some eyes, you're not even human - but to be unable to produce a child, that's akin to being about as close to nothing as one can be in the minds of many. I have felt it keenly over the years.

But in my mind, for many years, there has lived a little boy. Well, he's not so little, now. He's grown up in my head as the years have passed. Had all gone as planned - and things in my world don't go as planned - this little one would have been born on September 22, 1988. I would have loved that date, since it is also Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' birthdays.

We would have named you James Joseph Firebaugh - James after your father, and his father, and his father's father and on down the line many generations, and Joseph after my father's father. I would have called you J.J., something your father probably would not have liked but he would eventually accept.

Our whole lives would have been different with your coming. I'd have quit my job at the law office to stay home with you, and began my freelance career much earlier. I hope I would have continued working on my bachelors degree, if only to show you how important education is.

I'd have read you stories every night, from the first day I brought you home until you finally made me stop when you were seven. We would have had a collection of Little Golden Books, and I'd have made roaring noises when I read Where the Wild Things Are. You'd pretend to be frightened and giggle when I reached over to tickle you.

When you were two months old, I left you in care of your daddy so I could go chase down a story for the local newspaper. He promptly bundled you up and took you for a ride on the tractor. He thought I would not know, but he can't go anywhere without getting grease on something, and I'd have seen the spot on your blankie. You would have been daddy's boy, for sure. You'd follow him around the farm and by the age of four, you'd be able to tell me the difference between a New Holland and a John Deere tractor, or a Case and an International backhoe. You'd have loved your Erector set and Lincoln Logs, because building things was a joy for you.

You'd know a little about computers because your mom used one, but fortunately you'd be young before they became a big thing. By the time you were 12, though, in the year 2000, they'd be all the rage.

Your grandparents on both sides would have doted on you. Your Granddaddy Firebaugh would have had you working on the farm as soon as you could lift a hammer. Your other granddaddy would want to bring you into his company. Heir apparent, he'd call you.

Being your momma, though, I'd want you to go to school and find your own way. Paths are never simple, even yellow brick roads, and while someone would be there to catch you if you fell, for the most part, I would want you to follow those bricks to wherever your heart led.

Growing up, you'd have had cousins to play with. You'd be the eldest and their leader, but you would have played nice because I'd have taught you to do that. You'd also be a polite young man, because saying yes ma'am and no sir are the right things to do. You'd love the earth because your daddy does, and you'd love the world because your momma does.

We'd take you to Williamsburg where you'd be bored by the history but fascinated with the horses pulling carriages. You'd like the military museums at the Civil War battlefields, but you'd tire of them quickly.

When you turned 10, you told me to stop kissing you goodnight. So I waited every evening until you were asleep, and then slipped in and touched my lips to your forehead. You never knew how much I watched you.

At 12, you played football in middle school. Oh, your dad was so proud, watching you run. You would be a big boy, with your father's height, so you were a blocker. You'd make way for the touchdowns. But sports would not be your passion. Instead, you'd be a 4-H leader, and then an officer in the Future Farmers of America. Your calves would win awards for whatever calves win awards for.

Your classmates called you Joseph. After your high school graduation, you'd ask me to call you Joseph, too. And I would do that simply because you asked.

In 2000, your grandmother died, and J.J., you cried. She loved you and gave you many gifts, and your heart broke to think she was gone. Her loss would draw you closer to your remaining grandmother and grandfathers, as well as your great-grandmothers, until they too, were gone.

Because you had lots of relatives, you would learn a lot about love and much about loss. You'd understand people in the ways of an old soul, and I would love that about you.

I would have watched with pride as you graduated from Lord Botetourt High School, third in your class. By this time, you'd have been accepted into the college of your choice. You weren't going to be a farmer or businessman. You were going to be an architect, but you'd spend your summers helping your dad on the farm.

And then here it would be, now, and you'd be a 27-year-old man. You'd have just made partner in a start-up architectural firm in Richmond, where you would now live. Maybe this coming June you would have come to me with a lovely young woman on your arm, and said, "Mom, this is the love of my life."

I would have been so proud of you, J.J., had you actually been born. I'd have been the best mother I could have been. I would have made mistakes - all parents do - but I would have loved you.


  1. Oh Anita, that was such a beautiful and touching tribute to J.J....I'm sorry things turned out would have been a wonderful mama to him.. <3

  2. This was such a beautiful entry


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