But a 27-year marriage is impressive. Baseball legend Pete Rose, 69, just ended a marriage that long (his second marriage) citing irreconcilable differences. On a happier note, Colin Firth recently received his first Oscar after 27 years of appearing on stage and film. Twenty-seven years of learning lines, getting into character, following direction, taking on less-than-ideal roles...and now, he has an Oscar on the mantle.
The year Pete Rose got married at 42 (for the second time) was the same year a 23-year-old Colin Firth landed his first film role. 1984 was also the year I gave birth to our fourth child.
Adam Rogers Gillette was born at home. If you want to see the house, it is there to see: 5203 Seagrape Drive in Indian River Estates, Fort Pierce, Florida. We had built a tiny home there, then doubled the size. In the new, spacious addition, Adam entered the world the evening of May 22, clean as a whistle. He was born with the sac of waters intact – something that doesn't usually happen in the hospital during physician-assisted deliveries – and looked as if he'd just had a bath. Which he had, in a way.
Surrounded by family and friends, he arrived after an intense (albeit brief) labor. That intensity stayed with him throughout his life, but we couldn't know that then. When I held him in my arms, I thought, “I am in love.” It is a feeling I never lost, not even when he grew to be an incredibly black-and-white, hot-and-cold thinker with a temper that could send me crying into my closet (it was a big closet). A smile and spontaneous hug made everything right with the world again, however. If he'd said something unkind, he would apologize. Whatever he had done to displease or disappoint, he was quick to resolve. And of course, I didn't lose that first love for him when he broke things, as all children do, because he never broke my heart.
Until he did.
We had 16 wonderful years with Adam, years of laughter and baseball, of wrestling with his big brother and rescuing whichever sister called on the talents of Super Adam first, of learning to play chess and getting in a fight at school (in his mother's class, no less), of being sweet on a girl for the first time and taking a road trip to see his sister, of flying his niece around the house like an airplane and embracing grandparents, of getting baptized, of graduating with his GED so that he could start college early, of finding the dream car that would cause his death.
But we can think about that later, can't we? A day after the 27th anniversary of his birth, I'd rather think about his magnificent red hair and freckles. The time, during a board game, that my mother picked up a card and asked ,”When do you feel the safest?” and Adam replied, as perhaps a 10-year-old, “When I'm with my dad.” The time he reduced the basketball ref to laughter by calling for a time-out just as his foot was about to land out-of-bounds, exactly as a big-league player might do. The way he'd dive for the ball, or jump for it, or roll for it, the way the baseball or the basketball or the soccer ball seemed to come alive under his power. I'd rather think about his little legs trying to keep up with the big boys playing in the street or yard outside, not the way his long legs stretched to the end of the hospital bed of the ICU.
In August this year –a short three months away – there will be time to think of his accident, the hospital, the funeral. These are memories that live just below the surface of every day, but dwelling on them would not only paralyze, but dishonor such a precious, excellent young man. It is his life that defines him, not his death. And such a grand life it was, from the very beginning.
I don't know if there are birthday celebrations in heaven. None are mentioned in the Bible, certainly, although there is celebrating when a lost child finds his way back. The marriage feast of the Lamb is planned for some time in the future (not, happily, this past weekend as had been predicted by some). But I would like to think that those who have gone on ahead still mark the start of their lives on earth. If that is the case, I can see Adam gathering everyone together on May 22 (as we count days): Grandma Polly, who he loved so much, and Papa George (for whom he was named), and his Uncle George he never met, and other assorted family members along with his Little League coach Johnny Steele and pitcher Chris Lewis, another special Adam from Fort Pierce – Adam Snyder – and fellow homeschooler, Ian Zook. And over there, Jesus and Mary are serving up riblet baskets even better than the ones Adam always ordered at Applebee's, and everyone agrees that it's been a wonderful day.
It really was a wonderful day.