No Concern of Danger

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I’m sitting at a friend’s house, at a Superbowl party.  The game is on but, like most people at Superbowl parties, I’m not really watching it.  Like most people, I come for the queso and stay for the deep fat fried turkey.  Everywhere I look are close friends, good acquaintances and strangers who, judging by their honest faces, have the strong potential to someday be either.

The man next to me, Curtis, is one of my closest friends and is currently holding my youngest daughter on his lap, letting her spittle and saliva run over his thumb and down the back of his hand.  This is the sign of true friendship.  At my feet his daughter, three, plays with my twins, also three.  I am grateful to avert my eyes from The Big Game to focus instead on their little one.  Rory picks up a green truck and begins to slowly push it across the polished wooden floor, making noises that sound like the imaginary driver is grinding the imaginary clutch.  I slide off the couch, reach forward, grab him by the foot and pull him to me.  He squirms and laughs and fights me off and says, “NO!” but I say, “Play with me!” and I take the green car and he crawls away.  I roll it across the ground and Rory retrieves it for me.  I give him a hug and kiss him on the cheek and say, “Thanks for bringing this back.  I love you…” and he wipes off my kiss and runs away.

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Later, I’m standing outside as our host lowers a turkey into a deep fat fryer.  The oil rises, the turkey sizzles and the smell of cooking bird immediately fills the air.  The Host clinks his beer against my coffee cup and says, “I hope I don’t burn my house down,” and I silently nod in agreement.  The front door opens and Rory pokes his head out, looking from side to side.  He lays eyes upon me and says, “Daaaaaaad?” and I say, “Yes, Rory?”  He walks out the door, leaving it hanging open, walks down the steps, makes his way across the driveway, approaches me, standing toe to toe with my person, looks up into my face and says, “I want a cupcake.”

A reasonable request.  I say, “Okay… let’s go get you one.”  He leads me back across the driveway, up the steps, through the door, past the TV, to the table and points at a tray of frosted pastries.  He says, “That one.  The green one.”  I grab it, put it on a plate and, just as I’m getting ready to cut it up for him he says, “No… I can do it.  I can eat it.  By myself.”

He’s growing up and it pains me.

Sitting down on the floor I convince him to let me hold the cupcake and feed him because it’s so messy.  When we’re finished, his lips, chin, teeth, fingers and hands are covered with green frosting.  Without thinking he wipes his face on his shirt and asks for another cupcake, a request which I deny.  Instead I take him into the kitchen where I begin to press a wet a paper towel against his face and hands.

How much longer will this be acceptable?  When will he push me away, embarrassed?

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The game ends and the slow murmur and shuffle of people gathering their items begins; jackets, car seats, tupperware, car keys.  My wife puts shoes on the kids and packs Bryce away while I wander through the house aimlessly, saying needless good-byes to people.  We both thank our friends for hosting the party and then walk out the door, into the light drizzle.  In my right hand I carry Bryce’s car seat and in my left hand, Rory and I grip each other tightly.

Having to have parked on the street, we make the long walk down the driveway of the gated community, through the gate, and into the wet street, the neighborhood being one of these places that simply doesn’t have sidewalks.  The van is about a block and a half up and the street is fairly isolated so there is no concern of danger.

The group of us walk and talk and we praise the children for playing nicely and for sharing and for being so good.  We walk and talk and say that we had so much fun.  We walk and talk and I turn around and say, “Here comes a car,” and all of us push to the side of the road until it passes.  We continue to move towards our car, twenty feet away, so close, which is nice because I’m starting to feel the weight of the baby seat on my right arm.

Rory begins pulling at my hand and I say, “Rory, we’re walking in the street.  You need to hang onto Daddy’s hand,” and he says, “I don’t want to!” and I say, “You have to,” and I say, “We’re almost to the car,” and then I turn around and see another automobile coming towards us.  I holler behind me, to Jade, and say, “Another car, step aside,” and we push ourselves towards the side of the road, in between two parked cars.

Rory tries letting go of me again and I say, “Rory, stop it,” because now he’s just being naughty and he knows that he needs to hold my hand.  He jerks once, twice and then screams, leaning backwards.  I say, “Rory.  Rory!  RORY!” and then he gives one final scream and then everything else happens fast.  Too fast.

Rory jerks his hand free from mine and I feel him slide out of my grip.  His little body stumbles backwards, foot behind foot.  The dark road suddenly goes bright with headlights and I cry out and Jade shouts, “RORY!”  He takes two more steps, out past the parked cars, into the street, and my stomach turns into a knot.  I reach out but he’s gone, too far away.  I drop Bryce and try to move but I know I can’t make it in time.  He steps on his shoelace and his body tumbles to the ground.  The car – a large black SUV – comes up on him and my breath catches in my throat.

Rory shuts his eyes and I want to but can’t.

The SUV blasts past him no more than a few feet away.  If he hadn’t stepped on his shoelaces… if if if… the possibility hangs in the air like a vampire.

I take three large steps towards my son, grab him by the collar and lift him into the air, his feet dangling, and I forcibly drag him back to the curb while he still, to my great amazement, continues to attempt to pull out of my grasp.  I drop him on the hard concrete, squat down, grab his face in my hands and squeeze his cheeks so he can’t look away from me.  I say, in the absolute angriest tone I can fathom, “Rory!  You do NOT let go of Daddy’s hand when we’re in the street!  You were almost run over and KILLED by the car.  That car almost RAN YOU OVER.  You almost DIED.  You do not ever, ever, EVER let go of my hand EVER AGAIN.  Do you understand me?!” and, instead of confirming with me he simply begins to scream and pull at my hand saying, “LET GO OF ME!  LET GO OF ME!”

I grab Bryce and begin to march to our van at double speed, dragging him behind me, scared, angry, furious.  I open the back door and say, “Get in your seat,” and, instead of listening, he says, “NO!” and so I pick him up, throw him into the car, crawl in after him, pick him up and throw him into his car seat.  He screams, demands candy, which totally baffles me, throws his hands in the air and screams again.  I thrust his arms through the straps of the car seat and say, “Candy?  Candy!?  You’re not getting candy!” while in my head I’m just thinking, “Thank you God thank you God thank you God that I get to buckle him in tonight kicking and scream I love him I love him I love him…

On the way home all I can think about are small coffins and cemeteries that I can’t bring myself to leave.

I almost lost him.

I could never forgive myself.

We get home and I put pajamas on Rory, put him to bed, kneel down next to him and whisper prayers in his ear, prayers that only he can hear.  I say, “Dear God, thank you for Rory, thank you for giving him to me, thank you for protecting him tonight.  Thank you for everyday I have with him.  Thank you for blessing me with another night with this beautiful little boy,” and I pull back and I look upon his face and I see him in a new light.  I see how blue his eyes are.  I see the swirls of designs in them.  I see how little and how white his teeth are.  I see the perfect gaps between them.  I see his blonde hair, pieces sticking up in the back, his little fingers poke over the blanket and I see that his fingernails are filthy with perfect dirt.

Everyday with my children is a beautiful gift that makes me sick with despair and anxiety.

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94 thoughts on “No Concern of Danger

  1. Selena says:

    I was crying! and I felt your fear!

  2. Seriously love your writing and can relate so much! We have had this exact same moment with our daughter and as you know it is heart stopping… ugh. So glad he is ok!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Jennifer! I woke up this morning feeling like I’d just come out of a vivid nightmare, my first thought of the morning being, “It wasn’t real… It didn’t happen…” Sigh of relief. THANKS FOR READING!!

  3. Bob Clagett says:

    Good Lord Johnny.. I’m sitting here sobbing. Just the thought of that pain completely breaks me down. The love for our kids is so deep, and even the potential of losing them is horrifying. Thanks for sharing this , and thanks for writing.. you’ve got a gift (well, lots of gifts, but one of them is writing.)

  4. jessica says:

    I have 3 boys who have attempted the same “I am not holding your hand attitude”….I have seen those events unfold before my eyes and have been ever grateful that my boys where not harmed…I thank the Lord every night for letting my children still be on this earth to do what boys do best and turn my hair gray..lol…god bless that your son and you both made it out of the situation unharmed and that you are able to continue watching him grow and learn.

  5. April says:

    So very touching! I go to bed every night thanking God for another day with my son. What an awakening you story gives! In an instant, people can be taken from us… I am so thankful that your Rory is safe. Bless you and your little family! Stay safe my friend!

  6. Yatin says:

    We have raised two boys & I can completely comprehend this.

  7. mrsprickett says:

    Very sweet! Thank you for sharing. I have felt sick with despair and anxiety often myself over my children. It’s weird to say enjoy after that last sentence but you know what I mean. Enjoy!

  8. savagedolly says:

    Wow! That had my stomach in knots! So glad he is ok x

  9. The despair is shared with so many of us…

  10. nikkiharvey says:

    You’re a really good writer. I was scared for a bit then that you were gonna end saying this year was you’re first Super Bowl without him. I’m glad neither of you were harmed.

  11. Daniel J. Max says:

    I have to agree with all of the other parents. I really related to the playing and the cupcake thing. But my stomach tied in knots and I felt fear as if it was my own daughter when you got to the car because I have had some close (but not as close as you did) calls. The way you ended it made me realize how thankful I am that she is safe and that I should pay more attention to the little details in her small three year old features like her eyes and teeth. Thank you.

  12. Daniel J. Max says:

    Reblogged this on Life is hope.

  13. Aimee Lee says:

    This post got me all choked up. I fear so many things as a parent. All I want is for my children to be safe, happy and healthy, but there are so many things that could jeopardize this. Our children certainly are blessings that bring so much joy, but the love we have as parents can also be so painful.

  14. Johnny and Jade;
    I am first cousins with Jade’s Mom June. Just have to say I shared this post on my face-book and everyone feels so connected to this story. You two have quite a gift. Much love from Minnesota Cousin Terrie Dirks Trudeau

  15. tawnimarie says:

    Oh wow. I cried and can relate! Our 5 year old has pulled this on us before and it was exactly like you wrote — anger, almost rage, until he was safe in bed, and then all I could do was stare at him and thank God for how perfectly He created my son.

    This was beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  16. awax1217 says:

    One of the biggest fears is losing your own. My wife and I lost a child due to a dog bite that made her abort a baby. It was a rough time. Never knew what potential was lost.

  17. R.J. Koehn says:

    I have two boys…Often they behave like Rory. Thank God for his safety. Amen to this post.

  18. Sarah says:

    I can’t even imagine losing a child. Just the thought of it is unbearable. I am sure so many people can relate, thanks for sharing.

  19. edebock says:

    My heart was in my mouth as I read this! You have given words to every parent’s worst fear. I can imagine my youngest grandson doing exactly as Rory did and my son reacting just the way you did.

  20. Marzena says:

    It’s hard to read this and not imagine my child in place of yours. Those close calls are heart stopping. I’m so thankful that mine have made it through them, so far (they’re only 3 and 6)…. and that yours did as well. Thank you for reminding me to give them an extra squeeze tonight and to let go of the anxiety that parenthood causes.

  21. Paul says:

    The way you explained everything made me feel like I was standing on that street right next to you. My heart skipped a few beats for sure. I’m not a parent but I’ve worked at a camp with young children and their safety was always a concern. Can definitely relate to everything you felt.

  22. Jean says:

    My supervisor lost her eldest brother when he was 2 and was run over by a car when he ran out into the street. Her mother didn’t tell her that she even had a brother until she was around 13 yrs.

    Maybe it’s best to yell at him but later tell him that you love him and he would have been killed. Maybe he has to be shown when you squash an ant on the pavement.

  23. rubyjane1 says:

    The terrifying fear we live with as parents. Unconditional love, knowing you would give your life to save theirs. For those horrendous moments in life that we never want to experience. It stays and plays in your mind “what if ?” not that you have to ask you saw it that very moment. You can only give prayers of thanks to the powers that be for that shoe lace, or in my case that he stopped upon hearing his mothers voice, but close enough to feel the wind from the car. To turn back time as some parents must wish for. May your life not experience it again for that loss is too overwhelming to consider in life.

  24. ana74x says:

    Wow, lump in throat, as a parent we have probably all had that heart stopping moment. All the what ifs, the split second things that affect the outcome.

  25. I know the feeling – you captured the whole thing brilliantly. My oldest son took off running down a hill and into the street one afternoon when he was almost 3. I couldn’t catch him because I had his baby brother. He ran right into the street. Luckily, it was broad daylight and the car stopped in time. From then on, there were strictly enforced consequences for running off (and they worked, thank goodness). I pass that spot almost every day. Every time, I give a small prayer of thanks. Thanks so much for your post!

  26. Every parent can relate to the fear you describe here. You handled the situation as best you could. Your love for Rory comes through so strong–and that’s the best you can do, surround him with your love. I don’t usually plug my posts in other’s comment box, but I wrote one a few months ago about a horrible incident I had with my seven year old. It’s called The Road To Hell. It may help you realize we all experience such heart wrenching moments.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, and for being a great parent. Rory is lucky to have you:)

  27. Children: the gifts that keep on giving… anxiety and despair. Great story! I enjoyed reading it and am sorry that you had to live it.

  28. TAG says:

    A beautiful reminder to hold on tight and never let go. I have a friend who’s son took his own life at thirteen. She writes about her loss, still fresh after just eight months, and my heart aches for her so. I shed a torrent of tears every time I read her posts, but I know my tears pale by comparison to the river she has shed. Bravo for your own reawakening to the precious gift of our children whom we sometimes take for granted.

  29. datovoxo says:

    I myself have gone through this with my nephew.
    This leaves me speechless. godbless your beautiful family.

  30. T. Dawn says:

    That was incredibly gripping. What a great job you did describing the moment and the emotions wrapped up in it. Those “stepping on the shoelaces” moments are beautiful things and have a way of changing you. Kids are insane and drive us nuts but when something like that happens…wow…is puts it all in to perspective. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  31. Michelle says:

    I felt like I was there with you, thank God every one is okay! You’re writing is truly emotional and gripping.

  32. Oh my goodness, I was literally holding my breath! It amazes me how quickly something like that can happen! Thank God your beautiful little guy is safe and sound! AND, that he has a wonderful daddy who loves him and keeps him safe!!

  33. Kylie says:

    It is so hard just to keep them alive, sometimes, and they are so oblivious.

  34. Vikera says:

    My heart is racing. Once you’re a parent, you can never feel secure. Sigh. Thank goodness he’s okay.

  35. mommyx4boys says:

    I love this it really does describe being a parent. I live in pulsaki va where a man was recently arrested for killing hhis five month old son, they found the baby in the woods about four miles from my house. And when i heard about it i woke my children up and just heald them and cried and i thanked god for keeping my children safe

  36. Wayne says:

    AaaaaahhhhhhHHHH!

    Finally, a post worthy of Freshly Pressed!

    Congratulations for loving your kid, and being a godly example for him to follow in this crazy America!

    Wayne
    Luvsiesous.com

  37. Wayne says:

    Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:
    AaaaaahhhhhhHHHH!

    Friends, finally, a post worthy of Freshly Pressed!

    A loving story of a man loving his son, and being a godly example for the boy to follow in this crazy America!

    I hope and pray you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Wayne
    Luvsiesous.com

  38. I’m not a parent, but I felt your story so deep! My younger brother and I are really close and when he was little he did the same tantrums putting himself in danger. It’s so heart wrenching and I’m so glad to hear your little one is safe!!!

  39. Narcissus says:

    Every parent in this world can relate to this fear. Very well written. Same kind of incident had happen to me, when I almost lost my 2year old daughter in a mall for 10 minutes. The fear of loosing is still very fresh in my mind. Thank you sharing those fears which millions of parents have it deep in their heart.

  40. beenough says:

    Woah! I didn’t know where this Super Bowl party story was going. So scary.

  41. ploxo303 says:

    you really should teach your kid how to behave, the fact that he didn’t listen to you proves that he doesn’t take your words seriously. I feel the danger there but it’s partly your fault

    • Haha. You’re so funny.

    • theletterbphotography says:

      I’m guessing you don’t have children yet.

      • ploxo303 says:

        yeah you’re right you don’t but it would be typical mindset, at least from where I come from, we should teach our kids to listen

      • I think what The Letter B is trying to say is that no matter how you raise your children, they act out and misbehave occasionally. They are free thinking entities that are trying to discover the world around them and wanting to know where their boundaries are. And, unfortunately, more often than not, the only way to understand where a boundary lies, is to first step across it.

        Parents just pray that those moments of learning take place in a more controlled environment and not in a perfect storm of activity like the above.

  42. Oh, so scary. We’ve had a couple of close shaves–not car related, but once where my daughter stepped into our friend’s pool and I fished her out, and then a week or two later, my son choked on a piece of plastic and on both occasions, I was terrified. I can just imagine how time stood still for you. I’m sure you’re cuddling him extra close right now 🙂

  43. bernasvibe says:

    Beautiful tribute to parenthood..Yes!, it is a life long journey of anxiety and it doesn’t end when they’re grown..It just changes to a different level(another long story for another time..) Very happy your little one is safe & that you’re enjoying them before they’re embarrassed to get cheek kisses and hold hands! (been there done that & I still yell out I love YOU as they enter flights to head offf cross country) May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family. 2 thumbs UP

  44. sarahmonagle says:

    beautifully written, I felt every moment with you

  45. mummymusings02 says:

    Oh wow!!! What powerful post! Just goes to show how quickly things can change. How scary. My heart was racing.

  46. Reblogged this on Imax web design and commented:
    awesome short from the common gig

  47. hugoandy says:

    I’m wiping tears off my cheek now! My son is 4 and I’m constantly having to remind him to hold my hand where cars are moving. Glad we can all relate. And I’m glad your boy is fine!

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