Oliver turned 11 years old last weekend. We have never hosted a birthday party for him. He birthday falls between Christmas and New Year's Day, so it always ends up being absorbed by the surrounding holidays. I decided that this birthday would be different. We invited a ton of friends and hosted a Nationals baseball themed party. Surprisingly about 60 people showed up and we celebrated. The house was decked out in homemade baseball themed pennants. We had Cracker Jacks and Big League chewing gum. I even found baseball stress balls for each of the kids. We ordered a full sheet cake and gathered around the lighted candles to sing Happy Birthday. Twice. Because it always took Waverly until the end of the song to realize what was happening, so we would repeat it. It's become a little tradition for our family. I was so hyper focused on making sure people were comfortable and mingling, that I forgot to take any photos. Thankfully a friend captured a few moments, like this one above. Oliver seemed content to share his space with friends and even tolerated kids standing in front of Mickey Mouse for a short while.
In the weeks before his party I was struggling to rest. I would toss and turn for hours. Unlike previous bouts of insomnia, this one felt different. My chest wasn't aching and I could take deep cleansing breaths. My mind wasn't spinning or worrying. I simply couldn't sleep. I realized, after the party, that I was stressed about Oliver turning 11 years old. My body was responding to the stress, but my brain was providing me with some self-protection. It was shielding me from the truth until I was ready. The guest had gone, my hosting job was over and I was able to sit in the fact that Ollie was another year older.
And not just any year older. He is 11. Waverly's final year was her 11th. I knew her time was coming. And I am beginning to feel that shift deep within me. It's time to prepare. It's time to savor. Maybe it is fear. Maybe it is my gut. My soul is silently screaming within me. It feels primal and animalistic. I am growing more protective of him. I want to spend as much time as possible with him, watching him sleep, finding relief in each chest raise. The sweet music of his breathing.
I find myself in some kind of netherworld once again. Death feels as if it is beginning to circle. Wide, distant circles, but I know it is near. And it terrifies me.