Bear-Bear was a grungy, germ-infested, foul-smelling, sad little excuse for a stuffed animal when I let him move on.
In the interim, Bill has occasionally told me that Landon is still missing Bear-Bear, but I dismissed the idea. Surely Bill was assigning a sentimentality to the situation that Landon didn't possess. I've never heard a peep about it. The preciousness of a saggy lump of a worn out bear did not compute.
Then tonight happened. Stories were over and Landon was getting ready to go to bed.
"Dad, do you think you could call your old school and see if someone found Bear-Bear and they didn't know what to do with him so he is sitting in a closet somewhere? Can we drive down there and see if anybody found him?" His voice cracks. His eyes fill up with the real-deal, genuine tears.
I sat there stunned. My little boy is really, truly missing that bear almost two years later. I can't let Landon think that all his pain is his own fault, and yet, I don't want it to be mine, either.
I take a deep breath.
"Buddy, I really made a big mistake. Bear-Bear was dirty and stinky and gross and even after we washed him he just seemed like a grungy, dirty bear that I didn't want to make you sick, so I got rid of him. But I'm really sorry. We should have talked about it before I did that."
"But could Daddy just check to make sure he didn't get left at his school?"
"He could. He can. But I think we need to get on a mission to find a new animal your big loving heart can welcome as your very special one. Maybe we'll find a bear. Maybe a monkey. Maybe something else will be the one, and you'll just know you're ready to love it like you loved Bear-Bear. Do you think you're ready to love another animal and let it be your favorite one?"
He nods, but I can see that he is still sad and trying to process the permanency of the loss.
"Mom, did you throw it away or give it to the Goodwill?"
I don't know for certain, but I'm certain what I need to say. "To the Goodwill, Buddy. He was excited about meeting some new animals and going on new adventures. He was ready to go."
We hug. Bill and I look over his head in our shared misery over my miscalculation. I believed Landon wouldn't remember, wouldn't care, and would quickly be over it.
My little boy has spent half his life (and all the time he can remember) feeling the loss of that bear. It's hard to acknowledge that this is an addition to what will be a long list of ways I let him down, cause him pain, disappoint him, misunderstand him, or otherwise fall short. Oh, I'm hoping and praying that it's a short list, but I'm not kidding myself, either. Parenting is hard, and nobody does it perfectly.
I'm remembering my last Christmas of being a little girl when the doll my parents got me was a bitter disappointment. Not the baby doll I yearned for, but a stand up doll that had golden ringlets and a creepy grin. With dogged perseverance, my mom took me to every toy store she could think of until we found the perfect baby doll, the very last one of my childhood, and most beloved.
My mom isn't a sentimental person, either. But sometimes, a parent can look into their child's heart and see a big, deep yearning for something that isn't fueled by greed, peer pressure, or market manipulated wishes...It's for something real and simple and solid like a doll or best-friend bear.
I've learned my lesson, sweet boy. He may be the last one you love with all your heart, the perfect stuffed animal friend for you to finish out your littlest years with, but we'll find him. And when we do, I promise he can stay with us every day you ever want him to. And then for me, maybe a couple more.