It feels like you’ve been gone forever. I crane my neck as I sit here at my desk, imagining what it would sound like to have you run down our wooden stairs and out the kitchen door again, but I come up empty. So much has changed here, in HUGE ways, yes, but even in the mundane, everyday details.
Did you notice we have a King size bed now? After years of insisting we needed a King, I just went out and bought one. Yep, and that’s a TV on the wall. C-razy. Of course it’s hooked up to Netflix, not cable YET, but baby steps, dude, baby steps. I’ve always wanted to curl up with the whole fam and watch a movie in bed, which we can do now, but there’s an empty spot. A glaringly empty spot without you.
Oh, and that’s an old fashioned hot air popper from the thrift shop on the kitchen counter. Have you ever seen one of those? Totally 80’s, I know. We're having fun with it and I think you would like it even better than the microwave popcorn we ate each night in the summer.
Our family TV shows have switched from Merlin, Man vs. Wild, and America’s Got Talent to Cupcake Wars, Chopped, and American Pickers. I think you would get a kick out of these shows, just like you liked watching The Next Great Baker last year. It seems like every episode of Man vs. Wild has a perilous river scene, so that’s out for us right now. I’ve gravitated a bit more into your space on the couch, under Great Grandma Jackson’s blanket, but it still feels so weird not to have you next to me. I loved the way you would let me wrap my arms around you like a pretzel and squeeze your guts out as we sat together. Sometimes I close my eyes and pretend that you are there, but it doesn’t really work. Do you remember the last movie we watched as a family, two nights before the accident? Yep, “Anne Frank.”
The basement is pretty empty, too, now that you, Margaret, and your friends aren’t playing that car game down there. In fact, it’s rare to have kids over at all. I haven’t been on the treadmill down there since the day before the accident. It reminds me too much of you, because when I exercised last summer I’d watch that show, “Lie to Me,” and I know the premise intrigued you. I told you all about the man who could tell if people were lying just noticing their facial expressions. You would be at my desk at the top of the stairs on the computer and would poke your head down on occasion to ask me a question and peek at what I was watching. I also think about how I couldn’t use the treadmill on that last, horrible day after school because we had no electricity. No stinkin’ electricity. But I didn’t mind at the time because we were having fun together, laughing and talking.
Dad is running all the time now! He and Auntie talk about running gear and training and heart rates and hydration, which I find oh so boring. After knowing Daddy for 20 years, I find it weird to see him with a whole new hobby, but I know it is helping keep him going at this point. He misses you so much. Oh, and another thing, Jack. Daddy is leaving the toilet seat up! Seriously! What do you think about that? Do you think he is doing it to show some pent-up hostility, or do you think he’s just being forgetful? Is it totally inappropriate that I’m talking to you about this, Jack? “Totes Inapprops” as Marg would say. That phrase is new, too.
My interests have changed. I haven’t picked up a single piece of furniture from someone’s trash pile, or spray painted anything since the accident. I do try to go to the thrift shop every month or so, but nothing there sparks my interest anymore. When I pass the row of khaki pants I have to stop myself from checking to see if any will fit you for your school uniform. And the puzzle aisle? Is not my friend.
I’ve thought about writing a book, Jack, called “Things I Used to Give a S*** About” because so many of my former interests seem so empty now. I know you hoped I’d become a big-time blogger because of my decorating and refinishing projects, but that’s not exactly how it is working out. I have a ton of amazing readers and they are reading about you, our family, God, and grief as we try to make sense of the craziness of what has happened. They pray for us and support us every day.
Oh, and Jack? I guess you now know that I cuss. Can’t believe I did so well hiding it from you for 12 ½ years. There was that one time when you were 2 ½ and that guy stood up in the middle of the road in front of our car and I yelled the “S” word, but I did a pretty good job convincing you I really meant “Sit!” as in "sit down!" Ummm, you did believe me, right?
I just seem to feel like cussing an awful lot right now. I know that in addition to having perfect grammar, an extensive vocabulary, and impeccable dental hygiene, you did not have a very foul mouth, Jack, and for that I am grateful. "Butt and sucks" were the worst you said, even though we got on your case about it. Now those words just aren't cutting it for your old momma, let me tell you.
The kids still play outside in the neighborhood, but that has changed, too. The trail of kids in and out of our house has dried up, and a couple of your friends are now riding snazzy go-carts up and down the driveway. I’m guessing you would have thought that was a lot of fun, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that the sound of the go-carts makes me feel like throwing up. Or throwing something. Or both.
We haven’t had any snow, except for about an inch one Saturday morning. I was amazed at how many green saucer sleds like the one you used to have littered the yards around our house. They reminded me of all of the fun times we had in the snow, like when I almost slammed into the mailbox when Mrs. H and I decided to sled down her hill, or during the blizzard when you, Margaret, Daddy and I went night sledding in the street and Shadow kept jumping on top of us. For some reason, the kids are sledding behind the houses this year, right near the pathetic, empty creek bed. Needless to say, I don’t see sledding in my future. Shadow wandered near the creek a few weeks ago and I couldn't walk down there to get her back.
Your classmates come to my car each day to give me hugs in the pick-up line. I try to make sure I have Shadow with me so they can pet her as we talk. I hope they don’t feel weird talking to me. They seem to have more freedom than you all did in 6th grade, and I miss that for you. I really love your class, and when I see the kids, and how they care for and look out for each other, I can’t help placing you there with them and imagining what entering your teens would have been like with such quality friends.
Speaking of friends, you might be surprised to see that Daddy and I are hanging out with some new people, whether we didn’t know them before or have just gotten to know them better. You would be AMAZED at how many people have reached out to befriend us and comfort us in so many ways since your accident. We are also meeting other parents whose children have died.
So there are a lot of changes. A lot going on. Even this computer is different. How often did you say we needed a new computer, since mine kept crashing whenever you tried to use it? On Christmas morning, when I opened the box and saw a new laptop from Daddy, I felt a sinking feeling rather than gratefulness, because it felt like just one more way I was leaving you
Change is hard, Jack, but we're doing it. I hope you are as proud of us as we are of you.
I miss you so much.