Will there be not a trace left behind
I could have loved you better, didn’t mean to be unkind
You know that was the last thing on my mind
from Last Thing on my Mind
by Tom Paxton
After the fire I went to Jonathan’s apartment three or four times to try and salvage some of his belongings. What seemed like it could be saved I brought to my house and stored in the garage. A bit over a week ago Diane and Ingrid came to my house to go through the boxes. A couple of days later I was out there trying to clean up the video games systems so they could go to Benjamin, who spent a lot of time playing games with Jonathan. I picked up one of the game controllers – something that he held in his hands and took so much joy from – and the paper towel I was using came away black as pitch, black as hell itself.
And I lost it.
I’ve been thinking a lot since then. Those thoughts led to this Aftermath series of postings. In the last one I beat up on God. This time it’s my turn.
I said last time that a big part of my self-concept is that I’m a Dad. I’m starting to think that I’m not very good at it.
One thing that has haunted me is that Jonathan died alone. When he really needed someone, there was no one there – I wasn’t there – for him. I know that’s irrational, but who expects feelings to be rational? If I had known, I would have done anything I could to prevent his death. Still, I feel like I failed him when he needed me most. And I’ve been thinking about other times…
Jonathan loved video games. From the time he was little he was just fascinated by them. When he couldn’t actually be playing video games, he was pretending to be video game characters (mostly Mario). I, however, was concerned about his socialization, so he wasn’t allowed to have them at my house. He did have them at his Mom’s and he had some games on my computer, but he couldn’t have his video games at my house. I finally relented when he was 13. And you know what? The sky didn’t fall and he ended up making some pretty good friends over the years. His socialization skills obviously weren’t deficient.
A similar thing happened with karate. He loved the Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers. He really wanted to learn karate. Some of his “friends” (the reason for the scare quotes is a whole other story) in the neighborhood were taking lessons, but again I was concerned about socialization and I wanted him to wait until he understood that you don’t use your friends as practice targets. We made him play soccer for a few seasons, but it was clear that he really didn’t enjoy it. He started tae kwon do lessons when he was 8. The sky didn’t fall then, either. He was still studying and teaching martial arts when he died.
Last summer Benjamin moved into Jonathan’s old room in my house. I soon realized how poorly the AC system worked in his room; it was sometimes nearly 90 up there when it was around 72 on the main level. It must have been like that when Jonathan lived here, but I was so wrapped up in my marriage that I didn’t know. I really should have.
And then there was the first time Ingrid, Benjamin, and I went to Ocean City. Jonathan had to work and couldn’t go. He went to an ophthalmologist appointment the day we left (we were only going for one night) and the guy sent him to Baltimore to Johns Hopkins. Jonathan sat there for hours alone and his girlfriend called to break up with him while he was there. I really should have gone to be with him.
I could have loved you better, son. I’m sorry.