11: The Ten O’clock Chuckles

11: The Ten O’clock Chuckles

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

The Ten O’clock Chuckles

Bricks and mortar make a house, but the laughter of children makes a home.

~Irish Proverb

My son Joe is an identical twin. His brother John was stillborn. On the days following their birth, many people told me that I would have an angel in Heaven.

For the first eighteen months of his life Joe cried. And cried. He was well fed, well taken care of, and no doctor could tell me why he cried so much. “He has colic,” was the reason I heard most. But, in my heart, I knew why he was crying: he missed his brother. They shared a unique bond for nine months, and now they were separated. Joe on Earth. John in Heaven.

When Joe was only twelve hours old, the doctors discovered he had suffered a brain trauma during the pregnancy. One doctor told us he would be severely disabled. As the months of Joe’s first year passed, he failed to reach any of the milestones a newborn should. Even though Joe has a sister who is two and a half years older, and I knew what he should be doing developmentally, I would still read and reread the What to Expect the First Year books. He never reached whatever milestone he was “supposed to” or even “might be able” to.

The one thing I wanted him to do more than anything else was to laugh. To giggle. To “squeal in delight,” as the book described it. At ten o’clock one night, through the monitor, my husband and I heard something. Not knowing what it was, we went upstairs quietly and stood outside his door. He was laughing. He was giggling. He was squealing in delight. We stood there for a long time and just listened. He continued to do this for months, even years afterwards, and it was always the same time: ten o’clock. We called it the Ten O’clock Chuckles.

It was, and still remains, the sweetest sound I have ever heard.

A few years had passed, and one day my phone rang. It was my neighbor. She and several other women in the neighborhood were getting together for a ladies’ night. One of the women has the ability to speak to people who have passed on, and would give private readings to anyone interested. I went, not knowing if I would have the courage to sit down and speak with her. Though I believed in it more than disbelieved it, I was still skeptical.

I sat across the table from her, paper and pen ready. Those who pass on, she explained, often remain with us. She asked if I would like to know who was there with me. I resisted the urge to tell her about John, and simply said “yes.” As she started to tell me about the people who were present, she would occasionally ask me a question. I said very little. I didn’t want to give her any information. The things she told me were things I had never mentioned to anyone, and the descriptions she gave were unbelievably accurate, so I knew she was honestly experiencing what she said she was.

She told me an infant was present, and the infant had a strong bond to my son. Was he a twin? I told her yes, and she repeated that the bond was very strong. It is possible she heard this information from one of my neighbors. It was what she said next that convinced me she could only know this if she was genuinely gifted.

She said his twin came to visit him at night. She described a big, brown bear leaning against a headboard, and a smaller bear that Joe cuddled with. She also mentioned that the music from a pull toy comforted Joe’s brother. It is not easy to render me speechless, but I was. Not only did we place a brown bear by Joe’s headboard, and give him a small Pooh bear to cuddle, but each night I would pull the string on a bunny toy so Joe could listen to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” before falling asleep.

She then looked at me and asked, “You want to know what time he comes to visit him, don’t you?” I was shocked. I thought, though she didn’t say it, maybe she could read minds too. I could only nod; I was crying too much to say anything intelligible. She told me he comes at night. Somewhere around ten o’clock.

For the second time, I briefly lost the power of speech. How could she know it was ten o’clock? I had never mentioned this to anyone.

Joe has never spoken, but he continued for several more years with his ten o’clock chuckles. Sometimes I would be in the room with him when it happened. I would ask if his brother was with him, and he would always laugh.

Joe is now sixteen years old. He still remains severely delayed in all areas, and relies on others to do everything for him. He is a very happy child and laughs a lot. He still has the ten o’clock chuckles, just not as often as he used to. Perhaps that was John’s gift to his brother, to help move him past the grief of his loss and separation. I didn’t realize at the time, but John also gave the rest of my family a gift, one that would last for long time — the gift of Joe’s laughter.

~Laura M. Fabiani

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