They say when you have a near death experience, your life flashes before your eyes. I’ve never had that. Don’t mistake my meaning though, I’ve had near death experiences aplently. Hair standing on end, mouth flooded with the metallic taste of adrenaline, testicles making an emergency evacuation up inside my body. Yes. But never the >>>> fast-forward mental recap of all my wanderings in the world.
This story isn’t about me though. And it is. Any story about your kids is always about you in some way, isn’t it? Sometimes in every way. This is about two of my sons, Max and Cody. It was eight years ago, when they were only 3 and 5 years old.
Like Sherlock Holmes deducing a scene from pure observation, I saw in my mind’s eye what had happened: when I was fixing something in the apartment, they snuck out and went to the pool. Cody had undone the latch on the pool gate. He could climb like a monkey and had reached the five-foot-high latch. He had obviously watched me undoing it before. I had seen him studying me. Absorbing. Learning. I didn’t worry though. Oh, I worried all the time. Every parent does to one degree or another. But I didn’t choose to focus on that thing, that moment, that pool gate latch.
Oh my god I already knew what had happened and I didn’t want to be right! MAX WAS ONLY THREE!!! I asked what happened in the safest tone I could manage, so they wouldn’t try to lie.
Is there a way to die when you hear something and still be alive? Yes. I tell you yes, there is. I choked back the tidal wave of self-loathing and bit down on tears before they could be seen by my boys, and just hugged them as hard as I could without letting them know how dire the moment was, hoping they couldn’t feel the chill emanating from the ball of ice in my stomach.
From that moment and into the rest of that night, I was in a sort of shock at what had almost happened. As I’m writing this, I’m almost unable to see the screen with any clarity, this story is really rough to tell. I’m so glad to have my sons. My heart goes out to every parent who has suffered the most devastating blow life can deliver to a parent. Losing your child.
I bumped into an older dad who had just lost his child a few months after it had happened. He was in a living nightmare. I could see the pain in his eyes as we passed each other with token greetings. He turned to me. “Hey Andy. … …” I stood and waited, calm and silent. I wanted to hug-crush him, but his pain was his own, it belonged to him, and I respected it. “Andy, you have kids, right? Two?” I said yes. He nodded for a long moment. Then he patted my arm and seemed to lift himself a little as he walked away, reassured that the world was not a flaming ball of s##t waiting to burn and swallow each and every one of us at any second. I felt proud that having my boys, just having them, and them being okay, seemed to help this poor, devastated man.
So, Cody and Max were having it out about something in front of me yesterday. They’re always at each other’s throats, but, Cody chuckled “Shut up, I saved your life,” punching him in the arm. Max chuckled too but there was a loud silence to it all, a soberness. We were all together, here and now, looking back on a funeral that never took place.
I normally answer back to nearly every comment on my posts, but I won’t on this one. Please understand. But know that I read and appreciate each and every one.
When you read this, Cody, my amazing son, as you most certainly will one day, please know that I thank you for saving Max’s life with every fiber of my being. And for saving mine. From what it would have been.