I did a Google search on Grief and was shocked to see just how many blogs there are. Everything from grieving for a spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend and pet. I read quite a few to see whether it could be done tastefully without eliciting pity. As a writer I’m fearful of my limitations. Can I blog about our son without losing sight of what I’m attempting to do, and that is to simply introduce him?
It’s hard. As I read more and more of these blogs, I realize the ones that moved me deepest were simple, honest posts about their experiences dealing with grief. But I don’t want to do that. This isn’t about me. I want to share who Jackie was so he can live forever. Even in the midst of strangers.
It’s not important that he died in a car crash on October 12, 1991, exactly 21 years ago today. But it’s where I start because it’s where Jackie’s story ends. I can’t tell you how he faced 30 because he never faced 24. I can’t describe how he reacted when his son had his first haircut, attended his first day of school, passed his driver’s exam, or moved into his own place. Jackie missed all that.
I can tell you he preferred to be called Jack. I guess Jackie sounded too young. I can tell you he had this giggle that even strangers noticed. The sound came from deep down inside and was authentic and joyful. When he laughed, his eyes would almost close to make room for that wide grin. Everyone around him, even those who didn’t know why he was laughing, would join in.
Jack liked watching people, but didn’t like being the center of attention. His favourite song was Stairway to Heaven. His favourite singer was Bruce Springsteen. His favourite athlete, Hulk Hogan. He stood tall, 5’10. He loved sports, skiing, soccer, hockey, and skating. He loved landscaping, baking, WWW on Saturday mornings. His favourite colour was red. He was tough, gentle, shy, adventurous, and fierce. I don’t know that he was afraid of anything, except maybe the dark.
Family meant everything to Jack. Especially his brothers. Yes, he liked to bug them; actually he loved to bug them. When he and his twin Jody got into a fight, he’d generally hold on tight and while Jody struggled, he’d laugh. Jody would grunt and groan, try to break free, and end up angrier, which only fueled Jack’s giggles. Rather frustrating when you’re on the tail end of that.
I was forever nagging him about getting his hair cut because he’d have to tilt his head back and look out from beneath thick brown bangs to see. Beautiful hair, but it hid those eyes. I don’t have a lot of photographs on him on my computer because he passed before that was the norm. So much has changed since 1991.
One time he and Jody had a terrible fight, and I couldn’t break it up. I tried. I grabbed Jack, and Jody took the opportunity to pounce on his, so I had to let go. I yelled until my voice was raw that they shouldn’t fight, they were brothers, they loved each other. Then I went to my room and wept. When I came out, they were sitting on the couch watching the hockey game. I smear, you could not have slipped a dime between them, they were sitting that close.
Once a month I’d tell my husband we were going for supper because quite frankly I didn’t want to cook. We’d end up at the Chinese restaurant down the road with the smorgasbord; our five sons could eat until the cows came home. Before we left, I’d turn to Jack and reiterate strongly that he was not to bug his little brothers because his dad would get upset and we’d end up going home. He’d furrow his brows, look offended, and ask why I was talking to him because he wasn’t the one who bugged. Then he’d sneer at one of the younger ones. (I’m not allowed to name names)
We’d no sooner sit down, the waitress would take our order, Jack would sneak a few funny faces at [brother], who’d immediately start whining. Another warning would be given, to no avail. “He’s making faces at me!” little brother would cry two maybe three times, and voila–we’d be back in the van on the way home.
One time I drove into the driveway, the truck’s brakes died, and I took out part of the balcony. Jack took it upon himself to replace the boards before his dad got home from work. Later that weekend, he painted the new boards to match.
Another time he had his “black” Z28 parked in the back yard because he was forever working on it. I decided to spray the closet doors white, and took them outside to avoid a mess. I was at least 60 feet from the car, if not more. Who knew a breeze could carry white paint that far. The look on Jack’s face when he saw what I’d done. I felt terrible and apologized profusely. He was quiet for a moment, leaned over to inspect the hood, then straightened up… and giggled. Later, one of his brothers remarked on how surprised he was that Jack didn’t kill me; he loved that car. I mentioned that his big brother was bigger than that, and besides, the car looked quite unique … now.
It feels like yesterday that Jack would come in the door, ask his brothers how their day had been, then listen as they told him. They might argue that he was often tough on them, but he had patience too. When [brother] was old enough to attend the same parties, he would act stupid and expect Jack to fend off any repercussions; which Jack did. He was overheard telling one guy, “Look, he’s mouthy and probably deserves it, but nobody beats on my brother but me.”
There is so much more I could say: how proud he was when his son was born, and how his face lit up every time he’d look down at him. Given the chance, Jack would have been a good father, kind, gentle, compassionate. But for whatever reasons, it wasn’t meant to be; his son was nine months old when he passed.
Jack said he heard his name on the wind. A few days later, he was gone.
Twenty-one years and I’m no closer to understanding why his life was cut short. I do, however, feel very grateful for having had him in my life. He was a wonderful human being, who left me a better person for having loved him. Despite everything, particularly the feeling that this post doesn’t do what I set out to do, this is me introducing someone I know you would have liked very much.