I’m a mom…a single mom to be exact. I’ve been a single mom for the most part of 13 years. I’ve met more children over the years than I could ever accurately recall. I’ve driven them around, cooked them dinners and breakfasts, I’ve chatted with them, listened to their problems with parents or other friends. I’ve connected with many children through this time. Of course, some I enjoyed more than others. Some had flat personalities or lacked manners. Some, I felt kinda sorry for and tried maybe a little harder to be extra kind. Some, I worried might not be good influences on my children. In my years as a mom, clearly my experiences with children have run the gamut.
However, a few months ago, I met a (then) 13 year old child who stood out from the others; a young boy who somehow compelled my attention. He literally compelled my affection, in that instantaneous sorta way that is rare in the world of a parent. I can say with absoluteness that from the very moment I was introduced to this boy, I just wanted to be/stay in his presence. It wasn’t just that the boy had the extremely good looks which screamed “future magazine model”, with his caramel skin and dark, wildly curly locks of amazing hair that would make even a grown woman envious. Truly a visual delight, this child seemed to need no more to be adored by all, but to simply wake up in the morning. After all, I know first-hand how superficial the popularity standards of teenagers are. This boy could have easily captured the heart of every teen girl he came in contact with. And the boy’s captivating persona wasn’t just from his oh-my-God-in-Heaven delightfully warm smile. Although this smile…..this smile…ahhhh…it almost defies description in that all the usual words one might use to describe a beautiful smile just seem to fall short of accuracy for this smile. Bright, encompassing, infectious…this boy’s smile was the innocent frolic of toddlers on a playground. A smile which radiated the warmth and joy of a long, refreshing day on the beach. When it was directed at you, it emitted the warmth of the brightest sunny day and quite possibly could have thoroughly warmed your skin on the coldest, dreariest day. And even if it might not have had that kind of literal physically warming ability, it absolutely exuded enough energy to warm even the most hatefully cold heart. This boy’s entire being simply defies all narrative. I have wanted to write of him for days, but the struggle to catch a truly accurate depiction of his beauty, his persona, his energy, or his personality, has kept me from so doing… The challenge to depict him accurately with words makes me beg for better writing skills, a bigger vernacular and vocabulary, and cries of my sudden and total lack of skill in this area. No exaggeration! Knowing this child, makes me want to be a better writer merely so I might truly capture his essence with my words and help others who don’t know him think they’ve seen, felt and known him. And in that sense, as well as so many others, that is why this post and my abilities will fall short and this will become a post of loss on every level. So let me accept my limitations here and jump forward to my experience of this boy.
The last time I held a conversation with him, he and his best friend were in my home, visiting my daughter. We had only been living in this house a short time and things were not yet in place. There was a beautiful heavy black bench in the basement which I had wanted in my living room for weeks. I grabbed this opportunity to have these two healthy strong boys carry this heavy as hell bench up the long basement stairway, through my kitchen and dining room, into my living room. When I asked the boys if they would help me with this, one boy just shrugged his shoulders in submission and the other smiled big, eagerly nodding, actually wanting to help with this tedious and trying task. How amazing is that? The boys stayed till well after midnight. The kids had all been watching scary movies and scattering popcorn all over my living room…leaving tons of blankets and pillows in their wake as well as countless junk food wrappers. So, as if my impressed opinion of this boy was not already at an unusually high level, as the one boy got his coat and shoes on, preparing to leave, the other simply started cleaning up the mess that all five kids had made! He didn’t ask or wait to be asked, he just started doing the utterly unbelievable for a young teenage boy.
I’ll never be certain as to exactly what it was about this particular child that not only made me want to gush all over him with praise, but also made me want to reach out to him. This urge defied the huge smile he wore on his beautiful face and even the happy spirit he exuded naturally…it was just a strange, strange thing… So not wanting to overstep my boundaries or his…or heaven forbid, make him uncomfortable, I chose to ignore this compelling urge to reach out and hug him. Instead, I simply gave him my most genuinely heart-felt smile, and said with conviction as I looked him directly in his eyes, “K…you are welcome in our home ANY time at all.” Yeah…I sorta blew off my intuition as the possible paranoid parenting of a former child abuse worker and feebly attempted to address it passively in a half-joking but sincere manner. And that was that.…
Only I didn’t stop thinking about this boy. I couldn’t stop thinking about this boy. My maternal instincts, my intuition,my I don’t know, but over the following weeks, this boy was on my mind at least a few times a day. I actually asked my daughter about him a few times – as in, why don’t you invite that boy, K, over again? When my daughter and I discussed him, she always talked of what an amazing friend this boy was and how he sat next to her in several classes. She was particularly fond of the way he could make her smile and laugh on even the roughest or grumpiest day. He’s just that kind of guy, Momma..always kind to everyone at the school…always smiling that gargantuous, gorgeous smile and making people laugh. Every body loves K! I was realizing this kid was clearly adored by many…and had more friends than could be counted and was “popular” in every clique at their middle school and beyond; a rare feat for middle school if you had a typical middle school experience like I did… And my strange concern diminished as the weeks passed. Yet, I can’t say I stopped thinking of him, more that I just randomly would think about him and instantly reassure myself of how silly my over protective nature can be.
On Friday February 4th, I was home alone a bit bored, browsing Facebook to pass the time and through my daughter’s posts, I happened upon this boy’s Facebook. Of course I go to his page to check it out. I smiled just looking at his page. I pondered being the “weird mom” and sending him a hello email, just telling him what a great friend he’d been to my daughter and how grateful I was, as well as reiterating his welcome in our home and chiding him for not having visited in a few weeks. Decided against sending the email and then clicked the “add as a friend” button. I sat for a few moments looking at the confirmation “Do you really want to add K as a friend” or whatever it says…. Indecision took over and I clicked cancel…thinking I’d just tell my daughter to tell him hello and to get his butt over to visit soon, and firmly deciding that was probably more appropriate. Thinking to myself, I’ll just tell him to add me as a friend the next time he’s over and do a re-check of that odd intuitive feeling I got from him.
My daughter came home from a friend’s Saturday afternoon and she and her friend hung out here for a while…mostly ignoring me as usual! Around 7 PM, they came out of her room and she walked her friend to the front door. When she turned around she came running over to me, threw herself in my lap and sobbed, K killed himself tonight Momma! What? Umm…you’re crying so hard honey, I can’t understand you. What did you say? She repeats herself, K killed himself Momma. My stomach literally flipped as my heart took a nose dive straight down into my gut… I can’t possibly have heard her right. I had to remind myself to breathe as pictures of K’s huge smile flashed in my head….and I couldn’t help but to look over to my right at the heavy black bench he had carried up and sat on, putting his shoes on, right before he last left our house. I was sure I was going to vomit. This was impossible. This was a horrible rumor. This was beyond tragic. Beyond sickening. Beyond devastating… No! It was a mistake. It had to be. K’s beautifully handsome face, K’s gorgeous smile, his amazing hair, his warm kind energy, the entire essence of this phenomenal child was just too fresh….too physically still available even just in our house. This was the cruelest rumor/joke/mistake ever. It had to be. I know…not K…Momma, not K!!!!! No. My daughter had not believed it either and thus, had already verified it beyond a doubt. K had committed suicide about 6 PM that Saturday night, by shooting himself in the back of his head.
It is the strangest phenomena I’ve ever experienced in my life. The unbelievable impact this beautiful child had had on me in only a brief amount of shared time. And he was gone just that fast. As we attended his visitation and funeral a few days later, I kept wondering why I hadn’t just done and said what I wanted to this child. Why I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him….WHY I hadn’t sent him that thank you email. Why I hadn’t listened to that funny feeling I’d gotten in the pit of my stomach, telling me to look past this kid’s incredibly infectious smile and see beneath his light hearted exterior… A million why’s fill my head as I comfort my children and attempt to reach a state of acceptance for this totally unacceptable horror. I know there will never be answers or sense of such a truly senseless tragedy for any of the hundreds of friends and family members this nightmare has affected. And although it will never seem enough: not good enough or soon enough…just never ever, EVER enough, I vow to never again ignore, deny, or shoo away that God given gift of intuition, even if it does mean I’m the “weird Mom”, the nosy Mom, the interrogative Mom, whatever… I try to tell myself this child had a huge family and hundreds of adoring friends. So I couldn’t have made a difference. I wouldn’t have…right? Just like the perpetually unanswered “why’s”, I’ll never know for certain because I didn’t bother to even try.