Happy Birthday, my sweet Titusaurus!
My mind was swirling last night. So many memories playing like a roll of film from your first birthday to today. Titus, my heart… it aches. I remember you and I smile and even laugh, but then I cry. It’s complicated, this grieving and joy partnership.
I remember your first birthday so well. We had two celebrations that year. One just before your actual birthday so we could celebrate with the family in town visiting and the other was just you, me and your daddy. I slaved over these legit rubber ducky cupcakes. Man, they turned out awesome. (By my standards anyway… Ok, let’s just be real. That was actually the best “cake” I pulled off your entire life. It was downhill from there!)
With a candle in the cupcake and all, your eyes lit up as you watched the rubber ducky cupcake in my hand sway closer and closer to your tray as we sang. You reached out for the cupcake and it promptly crumbled in your hands. Confused at first, you looked troubled at your hands, at the cupcake, at me. And then you started to cry. We are pretty sure you thought your favorite toy was broken. There was no going back from there. You refused to try the cake and I had to clean you up and get you down. Sorry buddy! (It was pretty hilarious, actually.) And then on your actual birthday, I decided you MUST try your birthday cake or it just wouldn’t really be your birthday. I took a few crumbs, yes crumbs, and set them onto the front of your tongue to just give you taste, sure that you’d be back for more as soon as you figured out chocolate was REALLY good! (It’s in your genes to love chocolate after all.) And in true Titus fashion, you delivered the unexpected. As you started to move it around in your mouth, you began to choke. Not because you couldn’t handle the few crumbs in your mouth, but because the texture of the cake really threw you off. I watched you smack your mouth trying to process the texture and then it happened. All my slaving in the kitchen making those homemade rubber ducky cupcakes was rewarded with a tray of vomit. Awesome. But you got those crumbs out, so you were good! Oh Titus, those are just the kind of memories that keep me laughing for years to come.
Your second birthday you discovered the joy of singing birthday cards. You had family surrounding you on this birthday too, everyone taking in your joy and wonder of the Mickey Mouse Hot Dog song coming out of a piece of paper. We laughed and laughed and laughed and you thought that was pretty cool too. And did you want any of your cake? Nope.
Your third and fourth birthdays were low key, but fun. We had friends over, played, and finally, FINALLY, you tried one of your birthday cupcakes. And you found that you do actually like chocolate cake. Whew! (Your silly brother still isn’t convinced.) I look back on those simple birthdays; I was never great at planning a big party. Most of the time, any plans that were executed were last minute. It was a good thing we had friends who were willing to fly by the seat of their pants and jump on those last minute invitations. I always had Pinterest-level intentions for your birthdays, but let’s face it… that is just not my gift. But fun was always had. For your 4th birthday, you got your first bike! You could’ve cared less about the actually biking activity, but you loved sitting on that bike and pushing the button making your Thomas the Train bike “choo choo”. I still remember standing out on the driveway that year as we surprised you with that bike. I can’t believe we only had two more birthdays with you after that.
Your fifth birthday was complicated. It was following your diagnosis of Batten disease. You had lost so many abilities you once had. But that morning you woke up so happy and energetic. You loved birthdays and found joy in calling your friends and family to sing happy birthday to them over the phone on their special days. I told you it was your birthday and you lit up. You couldn’t see much anymore, nor could you walk or speak words. But you felt the love. And once again, in true Titus fashion, you were one crazy, wild boy that day. You somersaulted, you flipped around in our arms screeching and laughing and begged for us to blow raspberries on you. You kept us smiling that day even though my momma heart ached that as you got one day older, that was one day closer to when I would no longer hold you in my arms. And that hurt.
Birthday number 6 held the same emotions. We had watched your body decline so much. Your birthday always falls on or near memorial day weekend and that day our church was holding a big picnic at the park. We knew it was going to be hard to take you out for too long, but wanted to give you two things you absolutely loved: being outside and being around people. When we arrived, there was an adorable cake decorated just for you buddy. Dinosaur and all. We laid out on the grass for a good part of the afternoon and enjoyed the company, the fresh air and the snuggles with you. You were so content and looked so peaceful. It was nothing extravagant, but it was good.
Today, I struggle. I think of how this birthday would’ve been if we still had you here. I know you’d never be able to celebrate your life here like you are in Heaven. And for that, I’m relieved and thankful and filled with hope that you are fully healed. But my mind wonders at what it would’ve been like to have had you without Batten Disease stealing you away. To have celebrated your 7th birthday as a typical 7 year old. I wonder at what your interests would’ve been, what you would’ve requested for your favorite meal, who your friends could’ve been. And I really, really hurt over not being able to wake you up singing a goofy version of happy birthday and kissing your cheeks and tickling you. So many emotions run through me in a single space of time; anger, joy, sadness, confusion, hope, and lots and lots of love. We started the day with the movie Land Before Time. I needed some dinosaur noises in the background. I’m drinking tea out of my Lion King mug remembering how much you loved that movie even after losing your ability to communicate. You’d laugh so hard when you heard the opening note of Circle of Life.
You find a way to be on my mind all the time. And I miss you, all the time. I know, without a doubt, your adventures are great in Heaven. And each day that passes is one day closer to getting to feel one of your big giant-sized hugs once again.
Happy Birthday, Titus.