People always say that you don’t get to pick your family. I disagree.
When I was six years old, a family with three little girls moved into the house next door. My mother was thrilled. Being the only girl with four older brothers, my hobbies had become making and eating mud pies, getting into fights on the playground (yes, in Kindergarten), and looking at trashy magazines with the boy across the street. My mother saw these three little girls hop out of their mom’s Vanagon and forced me (kicking and screaming) to go introduce myself.
She had no idea they would become my sisters, that I would fall so deeply in love with them, that their mother would become a second mother to me, that their father, one of my favorite people, would influence my sense of humor for the rest of my life. Nor did she ever imagine that the oldest of the three would turn out to be my soul mate, my person, my best friend of thirty years (and counting).
We were inseparable, the four girls on our block. We spent every weekend night together, staying up until ungodly hours playing dress up and rock stars and barbies when their dad would finally come in and in his deep gritty voice tell us to go the hell to bed. We learned life together. As we grew older, our friendships grew with us, and we held each other’s hands through shopping for our first bras, then first kisses, then teenage heartbreak. We applauded each other’s successes and cried together when things went wrong.
When we were seventeen, our world changed forever. On February 29, 1996, we had our first baby. As scared as we were for our sister to become a teenage mom, we had her back. We knew that together we could make this work, and we did. A little boy entered our lives and changed everything. He was all the things a first baby is. Confusing, adorable, funny, exhausting, and he was ours. He brought a new life into our world, a sense of wonder and excitement. We took turns babysitting him and watched as he grew from a chubby little brown eyed baby to a sweet little boy who at seven years old announced to us that he would one day become a paleontologist. And we believed him.
We all grew up, went to college, moved to different towns, got married, etc. But we managed to get together as frequently as possible, and when we did/do, it was/is as if time never passed.
Then one day, our world changed again. Shattered for a minute. And an hour. And a lifetime.
Our baby was gone.
Just like that.
A car crash.
My pseudo baby sister lost her first born child a few months after he turned eighteen, just a few weeks prior to his high school graduation.
No words can help because they can’t bring him back. No flowers or cards or hugs or good thoughts make any kind of difference because he’s still gone, and my sweet friend who I love as if she shared my blood will never be the same again.
And there’s no word for her. There’s no widow or widower or orphan. She’s just a woman, a mother with a permanent hole in a heart that will never beat the same again. But she’s more than that to me. She’s my family, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her or him.
Please watch this video all the way to the end as a tribute to this amazing kid that was taken from us far too soon.
“Guys,one day we’re all gonna die, so have fun, and have fun the way YOU want to have fun. Don’t listen to anyone else. Word up.” Thomas James Gomez-Reddish (February 29, 1996 – May 6, 2014)