For a long time I thought that Jake would be the closest thing I would ever have to having a son of my own. This was before I decided I wouldn't have my own children and before the other kids (Cole, Sara Claire, Avery, Willow) were born. When Christi (daisy_down
, Jake's mother) suspected at the age of 17 that she might be pregnant, it was me she told first. When she and Tarah (another dear friend I made around the same time who introduced me to Christi) confirmed this by a pregnancy test, it was in my house. She began crying and said "What am I going to do?", to which I replied "No, honey - what are WE going to do" - thus solidifying our relationship. This relationship has endured ever since.
Just this week she mentioned to me that if she looked into his future as a grown man that I would be on his top 5 list of most influential people. We're very close. I've written about him a few times
before. She also mentioned that if I were to die tomorrow I could rest assured that I would be leaving this world in a better condition than I came into it in, if for nothing else than my relationship with Jacob.
When Jake was a baby, they moved to Florida for a short while and I kept a pair of Jake's footy pajamas and tied the arms in a knot around a belt loop of my favorite pair of jeans so it would be like he was hugging me every time I wore them. I kept them until they moved back. I told Jake this story only last night, as a matter of fact.
Try as I may, I cannot stop thinking about his life over the years and all of the growing up moments he's had, from his imaginary legion of 'police animals' that played Cops with him in our backyard to his obsession with the number 27. "Jake, what time is it?"
27. "Jake, how many fingers am I holding up?"
27. His first day of kindergarten, and driving him to school each moring thereafter. His plans to build robots and be a 'dirt worker' who drove backhoes and bulldozers.
And today all of that has felt threatened. Today I had to consider the reality of what can happen in an instant if left unchecked - and your life will never be the same again, not ever, and not for the better. For the first time ever I had to imagine today what it might be like to lose him, to see him walk out the door for another school day just like any other and never come back.
The last thing I told him last night before he went to bed was "Goodnight baby, I love you and I'll see you tomorrow." I'm unimaginably grateful that I'll be able now to say that many times more because of the bravery of the girl who sent the text message about the guns on the bus.
I've cried off and on all morning and afternoon, and to her credit, the baby (Willow, whom I've taken care of for the past two weeks) has noticed when I'm upset and comes over to shove Froot Loops into my mouth with a big, toothy grin and a laugh.
I don't wish these feelings on anyone, and we didn't even have to endure the kind of tragedy that the families of those who went through Columbine and similar school shootings did. If you have children, please tell them about this close call that has happened to my family. Hug them tightly, kiss them a thousand times while you tell them how loved and special they are and above all make it a point to know what is going on in their lives.