By Laura McHale Holland
I never meant to leave him like that. I was driving to the mall to exchange some shoes that were too tight, and I just forgot he was there. Then I got sidetracked by all those end-of-summer sales. And then I saw my friend Rosie in the Starbucks line and I stopped to chat. I finally came out loaded up with goodies galore—flip flops, a new swimsuit, v-neck T’s, even some wading pool toys. It wasn’t until I opened the Camry’s door that I remembered he was there, because I saw him. Dead as a doornail in his car seat. Oh, what a shock. I mean, I killed my daughter’s baby.
At first I could barely see or breathe; the gravity of the situation hit me like a head-on collision. I sat in the driver’s seat, sun beating through the windshield, and leaned over the steering wheel. I sat there sweating like a pig and wishing I could just erase the last hour. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even make a sound. But then I must have gone on automatic pilot or something because all of a sudden I was on the freeway, heading home.
Once I pulled into my driveway, I lifted my grandson out of the car seat and talked to him just like I would have if we were coming home after an ordinary afternoon of errands. Then I put him down in his crib and sang him a lullabye that would always put him right to sleep with the sweetest smile on his face. I tucked his favoite stuffed bunny up by his shoulder just where he liked it, too.
When my daughter comes to pick him up, we’ll walk into the bedroom and find him cold, unresponsive. We’ll both be completely done in. What will I do when she cries out? When she picks up her baby and leans against me, sobbing? Should I say it might be SIDS? I can’t tell her I forgot her baby was in my car. If I do that, then she won’t have her mother’s shoulder to lean on as she goes through this. I have to give her that, at least.