Life

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 month in my mind.

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 months in my mind.

On Nov. 10, 1978, I understood my purpose in life. It feels wrong to say I gave birth to my son, since he was taken by scheduled C-section, but I gave life to him – and he gave it to me.

Until I held my large, sturdy first-born, life had been a drifty, “whatever” proposition. But once we met, everything became clear. My purpose was in my arms. Motherhood suited me – it doesn’t define me, but it has made me who I am while fulfilling what I was meant to be.

Ben was the golden child – first Cartwright grandson, the boy my father (whom Ben dubbed “Grandbob”) never had, a smart and gorgeous infant. His time in the solo spotlight was short, though; by his first birthday I was heavily pregnant with his baby, as he called his sister.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

By his second birthday, Grandbob was newly diagnosed with terminal cancer, which rocked our world. At Ben’s birthday party, Liz decided to steal the spotlight by standing for the first time – cameras quickly moved from the birthday boy and his cake to the teetery little girl in the petticoat-splayed dress and black-patent shoes.

Ben didn’t mind – he was a lesson in love and he adored his sister.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first "official" portrait together.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first “official” portrait together.

By his third birthday, Grandbob was dying and Mama was distracted and often at the hospital. After the party, Ben loaded his backpack with presents and took them to the cancer ward at Baptist Hospital, where he proudly spread them all over Daddy’s bed, and they discussed and played with each one.

Seems like yesterday in many ways.

Now my baby is a 35-year-old father of two, and his baby, precious Luke, will be 1 on Tuesday.

My purpose has expanded from two gorgeous children to five gorgeous grandkids. Lucky, lucky me.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I chose an Avett Brothers’ song to title this piece for two reasons: They sing about life, love, death and family and are one of my favorite bands. That’s reason 1. Reason 2 is that my kids, my friend Julia and I saw them at Verizon Friday night.

These boys have and are something special. If you don’t know them, look them up. I dare you not to be touched by them.

Once upon a time I had a drawerful of ticket stubs from concerts. I ditched or lost them all at some point, which I often regret. This is one I’m keeping.

Avett

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