This is the continuation of ‘The Thirteen Days of Arthur,’ a series of writings by Melissa Mouzin-Bennett, mom to Arthur Hancock…
As I have been writing the thirteen days of Arthur, I started wondering if many people are aware that Roy and I do have other children as well. Roy has two daughters, Caitlin who is 15 and Brittney who is 19. I have 1 other biological child besides Arthur. Her name is Marena and she is 15 now, she was 12 when Arthur was alive. Yes, I’m fully aware that there is quite an age gap there, Roy and I both thought our respective families were complete when we combined them and Arthur came as a bit of a surprise. I’m not sure if at first he was necessarily a welcome surprise to the girls, especially to Marena and Caitlin, but as my pregnancy progressed, they got pretty used to the idea and Marena started to really look forward to the idea of getting a little brother. She had all sorts of plans for the things she wanted to teach him and to the media she wanted to expose him to. Certainly Marena would be responsible for making her little bro proficient in all things pop culture. One thing she especially looked forward to was the idea of passing on her favorite childhood book to him on his first Easter. It was a board book that she had since she was about 2 years old and it was called “The Stinky Easter Egg”. Marena treasured that book and would pull it out every Easter season to reminisce about the days when I would read it to her. Passing that book to her baby brother was as important as any other family heirloom being passed from one family member to another.
Marena took a couple of days off of school to witness Arthur’s birth. Since we knew he would have a short life expectancy, we gave her that option to ensure that she would get to meet him. I was so grateful to have her there. Marena reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age, and she is one of my favorite people to spend time with so it was nice to have her there with me. I was honored that she was willing to spoil her perfect attendance at school just to hang out with us in the hospital. Once he was born, she seemed to keep a distance from him and us. I think she was the only person who didn’t either beg to hold him or simply pull him out of my arms. She seemed to be more focused on if I was ok, then when other family members left the hospital for the 3 hour trip home, she decided to ride home with them and stay with her dad until we got Arthur home and settled.
When we got home, Marena and I had a very frank discussion about the severity of Arthur’s illness and that he likely wasn’t going to live for very long. She was heartbroken, not only thinking about losing her baby brother, but also missing out on all the plans she had made as a big sister. Then her eyes lit up and she ran into her bedroom and retrieved “The Stinky Easter Egg”. For the first time, she asked if she could hold Arthur, so I sat her down in a big cushy chair and planted Arthur in her arms. It was the sweetest sight ever to see my oldest child, clad in penguin pajamas, reading an Easter book in early December to my youngest child, who was also wearing a penguin on his shirt.
Marena stayed at her dad’s house more than usual when Arthur was home and I didn’t pressure or even ask her to come home even though I wished she would have more. I felt like she was dealing with her terminally ill brother in her own way and I was determined to let her have that. After Arthur passed, Marena and I were talking about regrets one day and she told me that she wished she had spent more time with us when Arthur was home , but said she knew if she was that sick she would need her mom most of all and didn’t want to take my attention away from him. Very mature thinking for a 12-year-old if you ask me, although I wish she would have given me the opportunity to show her that I had enough love and attention to go around.
Arthur taught Marena independence, she thought for herself, entertained herself, and made decisions for herself during that time because she felt like I had too much on my plate to worry about her needs, even though I would have focused totally on her without questioning if she said the word. Three years later, she is a very independent and mature young woman. Through her experience with Arthur, Marena taught me selflessness, she sacrificed the basic human urge to run to your mother for every little thing so her brother could have all of the attention focused on him. I couldn’t be prouder of either of them.