It’s April 15. Hopefully your taxes are filed.
You probably would have known why April 15 was significant without my reminder. You might not know that it was the day that Abraham Lincoln died (he was shot the evening before and died early the next morning) or that the Titanic sunk on that day (again, it hit the iceberg late in the night of April 14 and then sunk a few hours later in the early hours of the 15).
April 15 is also my youngest brother Shepard’s birthday. He died seven and a half years ago, but if he was still alive, he’d be turning eleven today.
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad wrote a book about Shepard’s life and death a year or so after he passed away, and I’ve been flipping through it this afternoon. Although much of it is heartbreaking, there are also pages and pages of funny little stories about Shepard, cute things he said or did, things that make it easy to remember him the way he was, long before we ever thought he might be gravely ill or that an early death was a possibility.
The one that really struck me today, though, was somthing my dad wrote about Shepard’s special blanket.
When Crawford was born, Grandma B sent a beautiful hand-knit white baby blanket for him, Despite the dozens of baby blankets we owned, this one became his absolute favorite. He would push his little fingers through the holes and stroke it and this seemed to bring great comfort to him. He never took a nap or went to bed without having those little fingers sticking through that blanket. . . I mention this because Crawford’s name for his white knit blanket was “The Binney.” Where this came from we don’t know, but it stuck. We all cried when Crawford went to bed at age 4 without wanting the Binney one night. It was the end of an era.
When Shepard was born he received a beautiful golden blanket from [some family friends]. They had had his name professionally embroidered on it in royal blue thread. It was quite a soft and handsome blanket. We used it along with many other blankets when he was an infant, but as grew older this one became his favorite and we began to call it Shepard’s Binney. The name stuck and as Crawford’s days with his Binney faded away, Shepard’s gathered steam.
The Binney went everywhere with us, and was usually pretty dirty. Luckily it washed up nicely. He loved to have it when he played and loved to take it in the car with us. The blanket became a bit scratchy over time, but he never seemed to notice. He would lay on it and run his right index finger back and forth over the satin binding. It went through 10 hours of brain surgery and also through his short surgery back in Las Vegas when he got his port-a-cath inserted (permanent, under the skin IV which he called “his bump”). It came on every hospital visit and even the nurses knew its name. A couple of times he became quite ill during the middle of the night while we were in the hospital and one nurse took it next door to the PICU where there were washing machines and washed it all fresh for him.
Earlier, after brain surgery in San Francisco, Shepard was feeling rotten and was probably confused with his surroundings. Carole held him all day long and rocked him and tried to give him comfort – but he just couldn’t get comfortable. He was on such heavy medication and his incision was probably beginning to throb. Finally he reached down for his Binney and pulled it over his head. It was as though it’s soft touch could bring peace to his pounding head. Shortly, he was fast asleep. From then on, we could usually tell that he was having a bad day because he would curl up with the Binney more than usual or sit up with the Binney draped over his head.
After Shepard died, my mom brought up the subject of the Binney.
After Shepard passed away, we had to decide what clothes to bury him in and all kinds of other very personal decisions. I had felt so awful bringing the Binney home with me when we finally left the hospital that horrible morning when he died. I wanted to leave it with him, but was afraid it might get misplaced or damaged by the nurses or the mortuary. We had a small family discussion about various aspects of his burial and we all decided that it would be too hard for us to have his Binney here without him and so decided to place it with him in the casket. . . we draped it over his body just moments before the casket closed. I hope it keeps him safe and comforted until we see him again.
The blanket in this picture is his Binney.