I think the shock of what happened is starting to wear off. I tell myself that perhaps this is one of the longest crazy-ass dreams ever, and I’ll still be able to wake up from it. When I awake, it will be September 8th, the second day of school. I’ll be worrying about how to fit all the baseball and soccer practices onto the family calendar and wondering when sweater weather is going to start.
Jack will still be alive and well.
I think one of the biggest hindrances to getting me to stop rowing down the river of DENIAL is the fact that Jack was not a big risk-taker. He was not a real rough and tumble kind of guy. Jack was more comfortable building with Legos or sitting around on his friend David's back porch while they cracked each other up than being all that adventurous.
When I worried about Jack, which was often, it was that someone would DO SOMETHING TO HIM, not that he would be in an accident. My fears centered around bullying and sexual abuse since Jack was small for his age, quirky, and on the quiet side.
That's why we were careful about Internet use and choosing a summer camp, and were extremely selective and prayerful about sleepovers. I knew the statistics, and they weren’t encouraging. Tim and I were considered too overprotective by some.
So we did worry. But about an accident like this? So sudden? So violent?
As a toddler, Jack would walk to the very end of our little driveway and his toes would not cross an imaginary line there. When my friends found out I wasn’t a spanker, they would ask, “Yeah, but what if Jack ran into the street? Would you spank him then?” “Uh, well, I’m not thinking that’s going to happen,” was my reply. Naïve, perhaps, but he was just so cautious.
When he was in second grade, I did have to yell at him to be more careful on his bike in our cul de sac, but in general I spent more time trying to get him to be more adventurous than to be more careful.
“Jack, do you want to ride this roller coaster?” No way.
“Skateboard?” Not really.
“Go in the ocean?” No. 10 years of beach trips, and the sand suited him just fine.
“Shoot a rifle off of Uncle John’s back porch?” No thanks.
“Ride your bike outside our cul-de-sac?” Uh-Uh.
“Walk to a friend’s house in another neighborhood?” Nope.
"Go on a dirt bike?” Are you kidding?
This is the kid who, thankfully, was alarmed when his neighborhood friends played with matches and ran home to tell me immediately. “MOM, there was even lighter fluid nearby!”
After Jack completed the slowest time imaginable on the dinky go-kart track during a beach trip, his friend Nathan said, “Sorry you lost, Jack.” Jack was like “Huh?” The snail’s pace had felt plenty fast for him.
Jack carried his car booster seat with him on outings until he was a rising 5th grader, and even as a 12 year old felt the safety of the back seat suited him just fine, thank you.
He chose to attend the one-week session of his beloved summer camp rather than the two that most kids his age did, because the longer sessions had "high adventure" activities and he was worried he’d be pressured to do something he wasn’t comfortable with.
How different is childhood today from our childhoods of being outside all day long, our parents not having a clue where we were. Night sledding. Being dropped off at the mall. Getting rides home from goodness knows who. Going to the pool by ourselves all day, every day. Riding bikes to the 7-11 or into Washington, D.C., with nothing more than a dime in our pockets for a pay phone call.
Jack did love the outdoors, and the increasing freedom that growing older allowed. Unless, of course, there were bees around, which would send him running. He loved to geocache, hike, go caving and climbing. He and his friends climbed onto the neighbor’s (low) carport roof from a stone wall. He liked to climb trees and rocks. He loved to ski with his dad.
So he wasn’t a couch potato, but he was not a big risk-taker either.
I find it strange that in all my Mama-worrying, and I did my share, I was focused on social and sexual risks, but an accident like Jack's never crossed my mind. I still don't understand why neither I nor the other parents who let their kids play outside in our neighborhood that day recognized the risks, even those who knew the kids going to the creek.
So here I am, exactly 8 weeks after the accident, and I still find it so hard to believe that that Jack is the one who is gone.
I keep saying,
I just never would have guessed that.
Here's hoping I blog in my sleep and this is all just a very bad dream.
P.S. Roller blading was something Jack wasn’t sure he wanted to try. Look at these pictures of Margaret helping him out at a birthday party in December. Blurry but so sweet And that's not a miniskirt he's wearing; it's a long t-shirt.