This past weekend I felt as though I was in the presence of a miracle. I would appreciate the impressions and comments of all my readers in the comments section. Thank you
On Friday night torrential rains steadily pounded the roof and windows of my house all night. When I got out of bed Saturday morning, the rain had stopped and the sun was reclaiming its place in the sky. Absentmindedly I traipsed down my basement stairs to retrieve a towel from the laundry room. I stopped on the last stair right before stepping into a pool of water on the floor. Every inch of our basement was flooded with about 3 inches of water. Mark had just gotten home at 5:30 that morning from a business trip. The storm delayed his flight and the flooded streets made a 30-minute drive home take two hours. I didn’t have the heart to awaken him and tell him what task lay ahead of us for the day.
My mother and sister Julie were visiting. I came upstairs so disappointed that the day of relaxing, talking and just being together I’d envisioned for us had to be changed. As soon as my mother and sister took a look at the basement their only response was, “Well let’s get started.” I found rain boots for all of us and we began carting rain soaked items from the basement. Our basement is unfinished except for the laundry room. We’ve lived in our house a little over two years and the basement has been the repository for everything from furniture from our old house, moving boxes filled with “don’t know what to do with” items, to out of season clothes in plastic containers. We laid the items that we could salvage on the driveway even though the forecast called for more rain. With each rain soaked item that we brought to the driveway, the sun shone brighter and we felt assured that we would be able to finish clearing out the basement without the threat of rain.
As Mama, Julie and I continued to haul items from the basement, Mark awoke and after having breakfast joined us. Most of the boxes and plastic bags I looked through held items that Mark and I had been meaning to give away or throw away. We gathered up the clothes and books that were not damaged and put them in the back of the car so they could be given to a charity we routinely gave donations. Mark and I said in amazement to each other more than once as we cleaned, that the storm forced us to handle a task that we had put off for far too long.
Just as the motions of clearing, sorting and cleaning started to feel routine, Mama pointed to several plastic bags under a workbench and asked me, “What’s in those?” I told her I didn’t know and continued talking to her as I opened the first bag just like I’d done so many others that morning. I peered in and saw the backpack Jordan used in college. I dropped the bag and started moaning, “Oh no, oh no.” I stood by the bags and cried, regretting that Jordan’s backpack had been ruined. My mother came over and held me as I cried.
I finally took a deep breath and looked through the other bags. They held some of Jordan’s clothes and towels from his belongings that were shipped home after he died. I’d gone through his things and washed all of the clothes I knew we wanted to keep. Several times I’d tried to throw away these bags that I stood crying over. Each time I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. I knew they would never be used but they were Jordan’s and that was my rationale for keeping them. Now they were soaked with rainwater. Mark came over to me and gently asked what I wanted to do with the bags. Through tears I told him, “We have to throw them out. They’re all ruined. We have to throw them out.” I took one of many deep cleansing breaths that day to calm myself so I could keep working.
We continued working only breaking for lunch. As we sat eating, Mark said he thought we were pretty much done with clearing out the basement. I reminded him as I had earlier that water also got into the small room directly across from the stairs. He looked at me after I spoke and sighed. I held his gaze because like him I knew the hardest part of the day was before us. The room I referred to held the moving boxes from Jordan’s room in our old house as well as the computer that he used in high school.
When we moved I’d told Jordan that he would have to sort through the boxes from his old room. He joked with me that he didn’t mind if I wanted to unpack them. We’d gone back and forth about his boxes; him hoping I’d unpack them for him, me letting him know that they’d be waiting for him when he came home. We moved in January of 2008. Jordan was home for a few days during his Spring break and only a few weeks during the summer. He never got around to his boxes. Even when he left for his sophomore year of college, I teased him saying his boxes would be waiting for him when he came home. Six weeks after leaving for school Jordan was killed in the car accident. He didn’t get to come home from school anymore.
Even though I tried to normalize the storage room that held Jordan’s boxes by storing other household items there it was still a wistful place. Every time I went into that little room to get a roll of paper towels or to retrieve snow boots or snow pants for the girls, I looked at Jordan’s boxes. I would sometimes peer into them but I always stopped myself from looking further. I wasn’t sure I could take such a long look at all the memories of Jordan’s childhood and adolescence that those boxes held.
As we set out to clean the storage room, Mark and I felt foolish and reckless for potentially losing mementos of Jordan because we were too filled with sorrow to go through his boxes. Then the storm came and the choice of cleaning out the boxes was made for us. As Mark and I started opening boxes I saw so many books that Jordan cherished! Just looking at the eclectic assortment, from Homer’s “The Odyssey” to “The Rose that Grew from Concrete,” by Tupac Shakur I was so proud of my “Renaissance Man” son. I wept over the books that could not be salvaged; and I wept as I painstakingly dried the pages of other books I was determined to keep.
Mark continued to clear the room and then he came across a box that held a folder with essays Jordan wrote during a summer internship and his high school backpack. Inside the backpack were a computer keyboard, the cord to Jordan’s drum machine, his swimming trunks from his pre-college summer as a lifeguard and a partially used tube of sunscreen. He held up each item with his mouth downturned and tears in his eyes. The backpack with all its contents looked as though it was just waiting for Jordan to return and hoist it over his shoulder.
I cried as I was transported back to the summer before his freshman year in college. I remembered so vividly all the times he took the keyboard and drum machine to his friend Matt’s house so they could compose music and “make beats.” I could hear his voice telling me where he was going and how long he’d be gone just by looking at the backpack. I sat on the stairs wailing, wanting to have my child back. Mark held the backpack and headed toward the garbage with the swimming trunks and backpack. I cried out, “No, I want to keep it. It’s his backpack.” Mark handed me the swimming trunks so I could wash them and put the backpack on a shelf in the storage room. He kept his head down, working as I sat on the steps with my mother two steps below my sister and me two steps behind me. I cried and cried as they rubbed my knee and my shoulder.
As I sat there trying to regain my composure so I could keep working, I heard Mark let out a moan and looked up to find him crying. He’d stumbled across the Oakland Raider’s helmet which was as part of a football uniform he’d given Jordan as a Christmas gift when he was three. I knew he was thinking of all the times he and Jordan played football together and how many games they watched together.
He bent over with his hands on his knees and wept, not wanting to be comforted, just to cry. I watched him as he wiped his eyes and took a deep breath calming himself. We were almost done with the room. We looked at each other knowing that our cleaning was also cleansing. That day we’d wept over the beautiful son we lost, but were comforted by the wonderful things of Jordan’s that we found.
As I headed upstairs to shower Mark told me he was going to see if the computer still worked. It didn’t get wet and he was ready to see what was on it. When he came upstairs he told me that there were lots of my files on the computer as well as Jordan’s. One file of Jordan’s that peaked his interest was entitled, “Memories.” He told me that he’d briefly looked at the first paragraph and then emailed the essay to me. I sat down with my laptop and opened up Jordan’s, “Memories.” It was an essay in four sections spanning ages 3 to 16. He began by talking about his earliest memory of staying over at his friend Travis’ house the night I went into labor with his brother. He went on to say that although the memories were fuzzy he remembered climbing up on the hospital bed where I held his brother to get a good look at as he wrote, “the newest member of my family.” His “Memories” also included being told at the age of ten that I was pregnant with twins. He remembered that he and Merrick made a special request for sisters.
I read and reread Jordan’s essay so grateful to have a son who catalogued so exquisitely for his siblings his wonder and excitement at their addition to our family. Jordan’s 21st birthday will be here in less than two weeks. We his family are struggling to accept that August 9th will come again without Jordan here with us. On his birthday, I know I’ll read Jordan’s “Memories” essay again and be so grateful that a rainstorm and a flooded basement focused our attention on the amazing gifts he left for us.