Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

People I Think About; Part 1

Several of you asked if I ever think about the little girls in my Post "No Small Thing."

I sure do.

I always did, but now that I am a mother, and the truly perilous nature of their lives has become clear to me, I've not only wondered about them, I've despaired for them. Children who start life like that have little hope of a bright future.

But there are a lot of people in my past that I wonder about.

Those I wonder about the most, are inevitably those that I had perceived to be lonely, hurt, broken, or sad. People who occupied the same space and time as me, but who lived in an world drastically different from my own.

When I was in the third grade, there was one such kid in my class. I still remember his name. I can still see his face.

His clothes and his hair were ragged and unkempt. His sneakers were holey, and he never seemed to have any school supplies. His voice was oddly deep and gravel laden for a boy that age, and when he spoke, he reminded me of a croaking bullfrog.

He wasn't a bad kid, I don't think, but seemed to get in trouble for fighting a lot. I imagine, that when a kid wears second hand clothes, and carries a plain steel lunchbox, the kind with the thermos in the lid, instead of one with The Bionic Man or Puff 'N Stuff on it, that kid has to do a lot of ass kicking to avoid being chewed up and spit out by the playground beast.

One beautiful spring day, he drowned.

He and his younger brother were fishing off of a train trestle suspended over the swiftly flowing Fox River. His brother dropped his pole in the water and when he tried to fish it out, fell in. He jumped in to save the younger boy.

He did save his brother. But he couldn't save himself.

My mother told me what had happened to spare me the shock of hearing it whispered from ear to ear in the classroom or the schoolyard. She knew how tales get twisted and details grow more gruesome with each telling. She wanted to spare me that. But though she was very gentle as she quietly explained, I was, nonetheless, profoundly shocked.

A kid my age, dead. A kid. My age. Dead. Not alive any more.

Cold and blue, cold and blue, cold and blue.

I had nightmares about it for weeks.

At school, not a single word was said about him or his death. One day he was there, and the next he was not.

His empty desk was a shrieking beacon of not alive any more. The first day, it looked much as it always had; Scooby Doo stickers stuck to the metal sides, papers spilling out, a square of dried milk where the carton had sat dripping the day before. It was easy to pretend that he was just out sick, watching tv and sipping Tang on the living room couch.

The next day, that desk was just another anonymous piece of classroom furniture, indistinguishable from the rest. It had been stripped bare of all traces of it's former occupant. Who was now dead. And cold. And blue.

The masking tape bearing his name was gone from the ledge above his hook in the coatroom. The bag of marbles and the lunchbox that had resided on that ledge were both gone.

It was as if he had never been there at all.

And that scared me far worse than the thought of him lying in a dark coffin all alone.

Looking back, I am deeply disturbed by the way he was simply expunged, and how nobody took care to see that the children who knew him were allowed to mourn.

But it's not Brad Mattson that I wonder about. I know his fate far too well.

He lies at the bottom of that river. Cold and blue.

Not really, but that's how I always think of him. Lying in the murky depths, eyes closed, hair waving with the current, open mouthed fish staring at him curiously.

It's his brother I wonder about.

The kid that dropped his fishing pole. The kid that lived when his big brother died. The kid that clawed his way safely ashore after a boost from a small, grubby hand that then, slipped beneath the surface forever. The kid that was maybe reaching desperately for that outstretched hand, trying to help his brother as his brother had helped him.

I wonder if he was ever able to escape the shadow of that guilt. I wonder if he was able to grow up and be who he was supposed to be, or, if he grew up twisted and broken inside.

Or if he grew up at all.

Survivor's guilt can be a powerful and destructive psychological force for anyone. For a kid, it must be all the more devastating.

Did he get help? Did he have parents who held him as he wept, or slept with him to keep the dripping, grinning ghost of his brother at bay? Did he have someone to tell him it wasn't his fault?

God I hope so. I really, really hope so.


  • At 7:08 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    BA~~~ A person I loved many years ago had lived a very similar situation, except it was his little brother who died. And he, at 7, had been assigned the task to "watch the baby". There were the three brothers at a pond looking for frogs. The baby was 3, my friend 7 and the oldest brother was 10. The baby slipped into the pond and drowned...unheard and unseen. My friend NEVER outlived the guilt.

    He had been given the task to keep his baby brother safe and he felt that he DID cause his death. NO ONE took into account that he was a child himself and should not have shouldered that burden.

    He grew up to be a wonderful, compassionate, artistic soul who was also an addict and profoundly depressed. He would often confide to me that he had never forgiven himself for what happen, even after years of perspective. He also felt hated by his mother. He committed suicide as a young man and left me and many others devastated by his loss.

    Sorry for the downer, but I do think that guilt can destroy someone.

  • At 7:31 AM, Blogger KT said…

    Wow. How hard. When I was growing up there was this family down the street. 3 girls. 2 of them were the same ages as my sister and me. We played together alot but my sister and i always thought they were a little odd. They did odd things. One day the dad moved out. I later heard my parents discussing how the mother tried to shoot the father. Years later I learned that he was sexually abusing all 3 of them. 1 turned to drugs. One got pg with HIS baby and is now raising it. I don't know what happened to the 3rd. I worry, wonder about them often. Especially, as you said, now that I have kids of my own. And I wonder how the hell this man could do that to his own children. I almost can't blame the mother for trying to shoot him (if that wasn't just a rumor), and i wonder how he managed never to go to jail.

  • At 8:32 AM, Blogger Middle Girl said…

    I hope that young man was given the help he would have sorely needed.

  • At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I hope so too.

  • At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a haunting story. I have a feeling I'll wonder about Brad Mattson's little brother now, too.

  • At 1:15 PM, Blogger Woman in a Window said…

    I hope that little boy found love and now someone long and warm stretches out beside him and holds him's always my choice for success...being held. I wish I could save them both...
    (Is it horrible to draw attention how well you wrote this?)

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    oof. my heart.

  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Alison said…

    I can't imagine how that boy must have felt in later years, although you've written it well enough that I almost can. I hope he was able to grieve as you described instead of keeping it inside.

  • At 6:10 PM, Blogger Girlplustwo said…

    oh wow. i'm somewhat speechless. how could his death not have been addressed? how is that even possible?

    your heart is so big.

  • At 8:46 PM, Blogger said…

    "Or if he grew up at all. "

    There is sure to be a part of him that is always that young boy, wondering "what if, what if".

    They can be here one moment and gone the next. It can happen on a sunny day under blue skies. It scares the hell out of me.

  • At 8:51 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    Given the time and the boy's circumstance there's a good chance he didn't get any help and that's amazingly unfortunate. It's also amazing that no one thought to help you kids. Amazing, but not surprising.

  • At 10:04 PM, Blogger S said…

    oh how awful.

    at least today there would have been some counseling available for this boy's classmates/schoolmates.

    and yes, it had to have been so terrible for his brother.

    did you ever see "ordinary people"?

  • At 10:09 PM, Blogger Angela said…

    oh my

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Sensitiva McFeelingsly said…

    This is heartbreaking. I have heard of a few classmates of mine that have passed since I knew them as children. One that particularly rattled me was a young man (about 20 at the time) was hit by a truck on the highway when he was trying to change a tire. He had been a heartthrob in elementary school, and all the girls (including me) had wished that he was their boyfriend.

    He moved away shortly after that but no one ever forgot him. of course, it was years later that he was killed, but when I heard it I was immediately transported back to third grade. It made the memory feel hollow and corrupt to think of that beautiful boy ending up dead.

    My heart goes out to that boy's brother. I sincerely hope that he was able to heal.

    Great post, by the way. Very well written. :)

  • At 1:52 PM, Blogger Green-Eyed Momster said…

    I still wonder about some surviving parents of friends of mine that died when I was 15. I think we wonder about tragedies of our childhood more as adults because as a child, I don't think we can even fathom the devastation of losing a child until you've had children. I hope the family was able to find peace. Death is one of those things that I will never understand. I hope that you've found peace with this too, BA! Hugs!

  • At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like reading you

    Not just because I keeps my mind off of things i dont want to think about, not because I agree with what you say and it keeps the loneliness of getting to me, not even because you`re funny.

    but because it makes sense, and it makes me feel good, perhaps because of all the reasons mentiones above, or perhaps just because.

    either way, I tought you should know that.

  • At 4:16 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Welcome Karla! I don't think I've seen you comment here before. Thank you for your kind words and for reading...whatever the reason. :?)

  • At 4:45 PM, Blogger Ms. Skywalker said…

    The story, woven with your heart breaking prose, just hit me dead in the center of my heart.

    I was there, with you, staring at that empty desk.

    Your way with words is astounding.

  • At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a story, and how far we've come, I hope, in tending to our kids in their grief. Nina's entire school mourned the loss of the little girl who passed away last year. There is a garden planted in her honor and they all tend to it still. It is lovely.

  • At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a story, and how far we've come, I hope, in tending to our kids in their grief. Nina's entire school mourned the loss of the little girl who passed away last year. There is a garden planted in her honor and they all tend to it still. It is lovely.

  • At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a story, and how far we've come, I hope, in tending to our kids in their grief. Nina's entire school mourned the loss of the little girl who passed away last year. There is a garden planted in her honor and they all tend to it still. It is lovely.

  • At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The school's behavior was absurd in this case. But I bet his brother has never gotten over it. The hope is that he has spent his life being worthy of his brother's sacrifice rather than wasting it on guilt.

  • At 11:55 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Oh, how awful... for all of you. :(

  • At 10:44 AM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    What a heartbreaking yet well-written story! It's amazing how the times have change in regards to how schools deal with grief. Back then it was as if that boy ceased to exist. Now, a child's life gets celebrated and grief counselor's are brought in. As it should be. I hope and pray that the survivor's guilt did not tear him apart.


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