My son, Sam, suggested that, if I don’t have anything to write about, maybe, possibly, I could write about him. Since I am still wrapped up in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’ve decided to take him up on that.
Sammy is 17 years old now. Since I was pregnant with him three years after I had a stillborn baby and two years after I had a miscarriage, he was probably the most watched and monitored fetus in Denver. And he was a stinker about it, too. As soon as the doctor found him and placed a belt on my belly to hear his heartbeat, he would move, and the game of “find the heartbeat” would begin all over again.
The best sound I’ve ever heard wasn’t in music, but rather the loud, shoop-shoop locomotive that was Sammy’s heartbeat in the hospital when I came to get a scheduled c-section on January 7, 2002.
Riva was three months away from her 4th birthday when Sammy was born. For months prior to his birth, I walked around telling anyone who asked if we were having a boy or a girl that “I really hope it’s a puppy!” she was, understandably, a bit disappointed. But she took to being a big sister naturally and well. Once, when she was playing with Sammy on the floor, she noticed a spider not too far away. She screamed, “Spider!” and carefully but quickly, dragged Sammy away from the danger zone.
Sammy repaid that kindness with kindness of his own. When Riva got an eye infection, and I had to administer stinging drops into her eyes, he climbed on top of his crying sister, and hugged her the best he could.
They played well together, until they didn’t. There were tears, there was screaming — but enough about me. Riva resented sharing, at times, and Sammy didn’t know how to play by himself and leave her alone, so fights were inevitable. Often, I I would bring up the fact that I was worried, because I wanted them to become friends. “Genetically, you know, there is no one closer to you than your sibling,” I told Riva as soon as she understood genetics.
“We will be mom, we will be,” she used to reassure me. I wasn’t terribly reassured.
When Riva was about 15 years old, and Sammy was 11, we were driving to visit family in St. Louis — a 15-hour drive, at the time. I turned to my daughter and asked her, “Riv (my nickname for Rivekka, because Riva wasn’t short enough), since I am an only child and can’t relate, please tell me — how does it feel to have a brother, a sibling?”