Did You See Me?

By J. W. Wright

“Did you see me?” my son always used to ask me when he was younger.

“Did you see me, dad?”

I’d always reply with an affirmative, even if I hadn’t. He just loved that positive reinforcement. And I was glad to give it to him. He was always a crazy kid. Always climbing on things he’s not supposed to, running around, jumping off furniture. If it could hurt him, you bet he’d try it.

My house was baby-proofed sure, but it didn’t matter. From the ages of about five until he was around ten, my son was absolutely bonkers.

I remember one time, when he had just turned 10... back when the Razor Scooters were really big, my wife and I got him one for Christmas. He was so excited. He took it out of the box right away. Couldn’t wait to ride the damn thing. But of course being December, it was like a blizzard outside. There was no way we could let him ride out there, even if we wanted to. That thing wouldn’t have worked in the snow. So we told him, “Just wait until the weather is better. Then you can ride it all you want.”

Of course he didn’t listen. I worked the night shift and left for work. My son took it upon himself to take the razor scooter and start trying to do some tricks and ride it down the hallway while my wife was in the other room. She barely had time to yell, “Don’t ride the scooter in the house!” before she heard the thud. Then the crying. Turns out, he was riding it barefoot. And they didn’t call them Razor Scooters for nothing. Sliced his big toe clean off. There was blood everywhere.

Luckily, she was able to get him to the hospital in time so they could reattach his toe. And even more luckily, he didn’t really have any lasting issues. None besides the big white scar along the side of his toe.

That pretty much sealed the deal for him. He learned his lesson, and there was no more rambunctious behavior from him.

The funny thing is that whenever he didn’t feel well, and all he wanted to do was lay on the couch, it made me pray he was being crazy again. It was always easy for me to notice when something was wrong with him physically.

I wish the same could be said for mental illness. I wish that I would have seen the signs that something was wrong. My son was really good at pretending that he was happy. I checked in with him everyday; I told him I loved him every day. There was so much more I could have done though. I wish I could have been a better father. I wish I would have seen the signs. I wish that I would have paid closer attention. But now I can’t. He’s gone now. Gone and never again will I be able to hear about his day, or get the hugs and kisses he would give me (but not in front of his friends... he was much too cool for that).

You know, I was the one that found him. It was absolutely horrible. But I’m glad it was me who found him and not my wife. It wasn’t a clean death. And it must not have been quick judging by the scene. He didn’t even leave a note. I’ll never know why he did this. I’ll never know why he thought that this was the only answer.

And that’s the worst part. Not knowing why someone you love would do something like that. He never expressed suicidal thoughts. It was just such a gut punch when it happened.

Of course burying your child is the absolute worst thing imaginable. I wish it was me that was laying in that box rather than him. A thousand times over do I wish that. There’s nothing I wish for more than to be able to trade places with him.

I’ve gone to his grave. I’ve pleaded with God to give me an answer. I’ve stood there in the middle of the graveyard just yelling down to my son. Asking for anything. Any kind of answer or any kind of sign. Just letting me know he’s in a better place. But I get nothing.

I feel like it’s selfish of me to want an answer. I’m not the one who deserves the answer. He’s the one who deserves to have an answer. A better answer than his own suicide.

But there is one thing that I want more than anything... I wish I could just wake up. Wake up and see him standing there, his dark hair ringing around his ears as he looks at me with his glistening eyes. His smile illuminating my room... which now seems so dark.

I wish I could see him again. I wish I could hear him talk to me endlessly about the music he loved, or about the LEGOs he wanted to build. I wish I could go back in time and take back anything I ever did to upset him. Anytime I told him I was too busy, or any time I prioritized something else over him. I just want to feel his embrace and to know that he is okay.  

I want to be able to fuss at him to wake up in the morning for school. To be able to tell him to hurry up or he’s going to miss the bus. I wish I could hear him say “Did you see me?” just one more time.  To just be able to go back to when he was a little boy. I’d let him know that I DO see him. I see him and he’s my everything. He’s my world and I love him so much.

This is just a horrible nightmare and I wish I could just wake up.