Monday, June 20, 2005

Saturday morning, middle of august, several years ago. about 10:30 AM. my pager goes off (remember those things? little black thing, usually made by Motorola.™ goes on your belt. has an alpha-numeric LCD display, usually has an audible and silent mode. displays text or numbers.)

It's a friend of mine. goes to the same church i do. has 2 stepkids. daughter and son. son's going to camp with us tomorrow, along with a bunch of his life-long friends..we have the same sense of humour, and we share the same interest in techy and mechanical stuff. i call the number. i get the step-dad. he asks how i'm doing, i say "fine". he says, "we lost____last night."

Hit the "pause" button.

he's 11. what do you mean "lost"? it turns out he died in his sleep, of an undiagnosed intestinal ailment. apparently one normally does not last past 5 with this. i stumble out a few empty words...what else is there to do? i'm numb. i've got 24 hours before i leave with a group of his friends for a week at camp. i have to go to home depot to pick something up. i use that time to let the news sink in. i dunno. i guess it's a guy thing. go be among tools, lumber, hardware, nuts & bolts. maybe because we inherently want to try to fix things.

some drywall screws and krazy glue™ can't fix this.

Now hit "play".

i go to the house. meet the mom at the door. she smiles through her tears, glad to see me. the stepdad is there, being a support. he's known the kid since he was in his teens (there's a fair separation in the mom & step-dad's ages...he used to baby-sit the kids.) i sit with them and the family. we talk about the kid...and how he was looking forward to camp...and had the trademark "special item" that was held up in the picture by all the kids in my cabin. (i'd been doing this for years, so it was a tradition--it's a guy thing, again.), all packed and ready to go. we talk more. i don't cry. the tears won't come. yet.

finally i leave. next stop--his best friend's house. i break the news. the friend just looks at me. what do you do? how does a 10-11 year old boy comprehend that a friend died just before we were going to camp? again, i have no tears and few words.

we pack up the next day, and go to camp. it's actually a good week, a relaxing one. the kids and i share our memories of ____. it's good. they just talk in little bursts. no long, drawn-out mourning session. they're guys. we make 4 poster-board cards, that the guys & girls all sign for the families. (girl & guy's cabins, for both sides of the step-families--both parents re-married) as we leave, i go by the staff cabin. he was going to get a special necklace that year, as he was graduating. i get the necklace and certificate. we get home, i give it to his mom and stepdad, along with the cards. his service is sunday, the day after we return. i make it through the service. then i lose it. bawl like a baby. but it's good i can cry again. i haven't in years. i do now, at just about anything.
(i'll cry for a commercial on TV. but it has to be a GOOD one. )
I later find out that the family had the certificate and necklace mounted in a frame, along with the stepdad's. i never knew he had the same thing from the same camp, years earlier. i lose it again. i guess god put the idea to get those things in my head for a reason. he has a way about that, doesn't he?