UNION BRIDGE — Susan and Darrell "Robby" Robertson Jr. have carefully hung five stockings over the fireplace in their family room this year.
Besides two for themselves, one is for their latest addition -- Jackson Lee Robertson -- and one is for 11-year-old Scott.
And one for son Robby Robertson III, who died three years ago from acute lymphocytic leukemia.
While the grief over 12-year-old Robby's death on Sept. 28, 1988 hasn't lessened, Jackson Lee's arrival has brought new joy for the Robertsons.
The blond-haired, brown-eyed baby has given the couple and their second son, Scott, 11, renewed hope amid continuing trials since Robby's four-year battle with leukemia.
"The 'missing Robby' part hasn't gotten any easier," Susan said. "He's the first thing that pops into my mind in the morning, and you think you can't go on another day, but you do what you have to do."
Though Robby is gone, the things he did and how he felt still guide the family. His pictures and memorial plaques still hang on the walls, his hockey sticks and baseball bats remain in his bedroom.
It will be seven years this Christmas Eve since doctors diagnosed Robby's leukemia.
Chemotherapy treatments brought the disease under control at times. But Robby's biggest hope in overcoming leukemia was an experimental bone-marrow transplant.
Following the transplant -- with bone marrow from an unrelated donor -- Robby fought a series of complications related to the procedure.
Shortly after his 12th birthday, he was hospitalized a final time with a fatal lung infection.
Susan's father passed away shortly after Robby's death.
For the past 18 months, the senior Robby Robertson's sister has fought pancreatic and liver cancer.
And two years ago, Susan was diagnosed with diabetes.
Jackson's healthy birth, then, has been a special triumph for the family.
"She had had some bleeding and a (dilation and curettage) and the doctors told her not to get pregnant because ofall the problems associated with diabetes," Robertson recalled.
His wife also was 39, and the older the mother, the greater the risks of Down's Syndrome, spina bifida and other medical disorders, he said.
As soon as she suspected pregnancy, Susan went to a doctor to start proper medical care. But the couple hesitated before spreading their good news.
"Being diabetic, so many things can go wrong," Susan said. "We were lucky. This pregnancy seemed so much more stressful than the other two -- I had to go to the doctor every week, I had to give myself insulin shots twice a day, and had to follow a special diet."
One thing that helped ease some of that stress were the results of a sonogram and amniocentesis that showed the baby was a healthyboy.
"I wanted a boy so bad, but I'd have taken a girl," confessed Robertson, a state trooper stationed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Anne Arundel County.
With her husband by her side, Susan, 39, gave birth by Caesarean to Jackson Lee at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore County, on June 4.
"The only reason for the name is to include Robby in this," she said, noting the baby's friendly nature "is like Robby's -- he likes everybody."
Robby'sspecial interest in the Civil War inspired the baby's unusual name.
"Robby was an avid Stonewall Jackson fan," said his father, 44. "We visited all the Civil War sites along the East Coast, and Robby would read anything he could get his hands on about Stonewall Jackson."
Susan added that Robby also liked Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House to end the nation's four-year civil war.
Scott was equally thrilled about the baby. The Robertsons let him stay out of school for the birth, though the doctors would not let him in the operating room.
"That really made me mad," Scott said. "I was out there waiting to see him and it took forever."
When mother and baby finally emerged, Scott was the first to hold his new brother, making Mr. Robertson joke that he wondered if he'd ever get to hold his son because Scott wouldn't let go of Jackson.
So it was no surprise two weeks ago that the first present under the Robertsons' Christmas tree was a carefully wrapped plastic Snoopy baby book from Scott to Jackson.
"Scott loves Snoopy, and he figured the book would be educational and fun at the same time," Susan said with a laugh.
Like Robby was for him, Scott is big brother to Jackson. After school, he plays with the baby and tells him about his day. Susan said Scott also helps feed and care for the baby.
"I still consider myself a little brother because Robby is in heaven I suppose," Scott said. "It's a privilege to have a little brother to look after and protect and I think Robby would feel the same way."
"I don't know what we would have done without Scott after Robby died," she said. "Scott is super, then to have Jackson -- I was lucky to have Robby, but nobody can replace him."