Friday, April 27, 2012

My Son Saw A Man Die Yesterday

He was at a friend's house down the street, sitting on his back deck talking.  They heard the crash but didn't think much of it until they heard the sirens and saw the lights.  Ran around to the front yard and saw the man sprawled onto the street.  The blood trail began several feet behind him.  Paramedics were already tending to him, suctioning blood from his mouth, trying to secure an airway.

My son distinctly saw blood coming from his eyes and nose and mouth and ears.  He was that close.

The man was broken all over.  The ATV he was riding was halfway up a tree.

My son saw him take his last few breaths.

He's been talking about it a lot.  He is very, very much like his momma.  Easily capable of compartmentalizing such a horrific thing into a very specific place in his brain.

He is also a 17-year-old boy.  He says that part of him feels guilty for thinking it was a cool thing to see.  I assured him that I totally get it, and that he is normal.

He is also a writer.  And as he tells this story, his eyes light up like only a writer's would.  And he says, "In part of my brain, all I can think about is how much I can get from this.  How this will affect my writing. (He writes sci-fi, crime dramas, war dramas)  How awesome is my writing going to be after having actually seen someone die?!"

My husband has been talking to him a lot.  Making sure he is okay.  Telling him that if he needs help sorting it out, if he needs to talk, that we are here for him.   My husband has been in the Army for 18 years.  Combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.  He knows death.  Up close.  Of friend and foe.

Both of my sons are amazingly grounded young men.  They have a self-awareness, an understanding of life and their place in it that is so rare in teenagers.  They are not afraid to talk about feelings.  But my oldest has such an incredible vocabulary, such that he is able to talk about himself and all of those feelings, lay it all out on the table, really examine and dissect himself, with unimaginable skill. 

He said, "seeing something like that changes you.  It's changed me, no doubt about it."

He told us that he feels a bit more humbled by the fragility of life and how small we actually are.

The man was apparently not wearing a helmet, was speeding and reckless, and at the time that he crashed, he was actually reaching to catch his hat that was being blown off by the wind.   My son found it bit upsetting to admit this information made him feel less sympathy for the man.  Or, as he put it, "My give-a-crap meter kinda went down a little." Although, he says that if it had been someone he loved, then those things would not have mattered. 

These are all concepts he has the voice and the cognition to express to his father and me in words, and without prompting. 

Jake is the kind of kid who you cannot wait to see what he is going to do with the world once he has it by the tail.  You want to give him the keys to the kingdom just so you can sit back and watch. 
Maybe even follow him around so you can learn and take notes.

I see a lot of myself in him.  I see a lot of his dad in him.  But most of him is pure Jake.

I see a lot of myself in my youngest son, as well.  His dad's silent indignation.  But again, he is pure Andrew through and through.  His brilliance is the quiet kind.  He speaks when his words are perfect on his tongue, and only when his words will matter.  When he speaks, you sit up tall and listen, because he doesn't do it very often, and when he does, it will matter.  Though I am afraid that if he'd been the one to see such a sight, it would have affected him much differently.  He cried when his parakeet died.  Last year.  He's 15. 

I am humbled by both of them.  Every day.  And if I never make another mark on this planet with my name on it, it gives me more than enough gratitude to know that I made them. 

Jake went back today to look at the blood stain that still lingers on the asphalt in front of his friend's house.  He said, "I stood there, mom.  Just stood there.  Staring at this man's life spilled on the road.  And all I could do was breathe.  And be grateful I still could."

My son saw a man die yesterday. 

And I am okay with that.


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