Sharing my mourning journey as my family learns to live a new normal after the death of my 19 y.o. son in an auto accident on 10/12/08.

Posts tagged ‘twenty-first birthday’

Detective Work

The check was posted, “8/8/10.” I stared at the notice from the collection agency. Neither Mark nor I had written a check for 546.00 to a cell phone company, yet here was a notice saying we had 30 days to pay the uncollected amount or to dispute the charge. This was the second notice we had received in the mail saying we owed money to a collection agency for bounced checks. The only problem was that the check number and amount didn’t match any of our accounts. I searched our accounts online and didn’t see any activity or check number that made me suspicious.  Just as I started feeling relieved, a pang of doubt hit me. What about Jordan’s checking account? I didn’t even know if Mark ever closed that account.

Mark was still at work and the thought of calling him to relay my fear that someone was fraudulently using Jordan’s account didn’t sit well with me. There was nothing he could do from work and the news would only upset him. I also had a selfish reason for not telling him until he got home, I didn’t want to hear him say, “Just wait until I get home, we’ll figure it out together.” I didn’t want to wait. I thought I’d go crazy if I had to wait.  I wanted to immediately clear Jordan’s name. I felt like the anger that has been simmering within me since this school year began, finally had a target.

I focused my anger and my attention on figuring out if someone had taken over Jordan’s checking account. The first thing I needed was Jordan’s account number. I started in our office. I opened drawers looking for old bank statements. What I found instead were old pictures, expired credit cards (why?) and enough staples to make people wonder if we were hoarders. When did we get so disorganized? I looked in the file drawer hoping that Mark had made a file and labeled it “Jordan’s info,” or something similar that would let me know I was circling the right area. Our office yielded no clues. Next I went to Jordan’s room. His valet tray still lies atop his dresser. Old keys, a grocery store card and loose change are all that occupy it now. My search became more frantic and conspiracy theories raced through my head,

“What if it was someone that knew Jordan that’s using his account?”

“What if one of his friends in the car with him stole his checkbook after the accident?” “But Jordan never carried his checkbook, that doesn’t make sense. Still you don’t know. You still don’t really know what happened that night.”

“What ifs” lead me to search my bedroom in particular Mark’s nightstand drawer. I pushed aside irrelevant items, intent on finding a bank statement. I reached into the back of Mark’s drawer and pulled out a sandwich bag. The plastic bag held Jordan’s wallet, a bunch of crumpled receipts and a paper bracelet from one of the concerts he attended while in Baltimore. I pulled the bracelet from the bag. The word “LOVE” was stamped on the bracelet. I held the bracelet and wondered why LOVE didn’t save Jordan from the accident. I wasn’t surprised Jordan kept the bracelet. He inherited the sentimentality that both Mark and I share. I put the bracelet back in the bag and removed the receipts, which I’d seen before but never looked at too closely. I knew they were from his last trip and the night of the accident. I carefully smoothed each receipt before reading it. I felt like I was preserving evidence but for what reason I wasn’t sure. There were toll way receipts and receipts from fast food restaurants. I looked through each receipt, talking to Jordan as I scanned them,

“Why did you eat so much junk food? You knew it wasn’t good for you.”

“Why were you paying so many tolls? Did the other guys pay their share?”

I continued looking and shaking my head, trying to stay detached so I could finish my task before I had to pick the girls up from school. As I looked closer at one of the receipts from Taco Bell, I saw the time of the transaction.  The receipt read, “8:52pm 10/12/08.” I reread the time again. Jordan was ordering Taco Bell 40 minutes before the accident. Could that be right? His friends said he was asleep at the time of the accident. Could he really be asleep 40 minutes after ordering food? Did he eat it? Were these boys/Jordan’s friends telling us everything about that night? I kept staring at the receipt willing it to divulge information that can only come from the boys in the car with Jordan that night.

When will Jordan’s friends be able to fill in the details of Jordan’s last hours, minutes? They are the only ones who can tell us what the accident report can’t. We’ve cobbled together the sequence of events from the accident report and a few sparse emails from the boys in the car that night. I keep calling them boys even though all of them were seniors in college at the time of the accident. From my vantage point as a mother, my son’s friends are boys the same way my mother’s friends still ask how the “girls” are, when referring to my sister and I.

We continue to wait for details about 10/12/08, not knowing if they will bring us some relief or haunt us. Will we regret knowing more? Are Jordan’s friends sparing us some gruesome detail they are too traumatized by to put it into words? Have they made some pact to protect themselves against implications of wrongdoing? These are the places my mind wanders. The math is simple and the answer is the same every time. Three boys live and one is gone. No amount of questioning or detective work is going to change that fact. Even as I wonder, I tell myself that until the boys prove themselves otherwise they are Jordan’s friends. I try so hard not to let heartache turn to bitterness. With a sigh, I took one last look at the receipts and then carefully folded them and put them back into the plastic bag.

Lastly, I pulled Jordan’s wallet from the bag. It was the wallet I’d given him as a birthday present on his 18th birthday just weeks before his freshman year of college. He always carried it in the right front pocket of his too baggy jeans, along with his ipod and keys. With shaky hands I opened the wallet and pulled out contents. Inside were his Amherst College ID, his bankcard, and his driver’s license. I looked at his license with the vertical picture signaling his “under 18” status. I wondered why he hadn’t changed it when he turned 18. I looked at the dates closer and realized his license didn’t expire until his 2010 birthday. He would have gotten an updated license when he turned 21. I looked closely at Jordan’s license picture. It was taken on the day he turned 16. He looked so young, not even old enough to drive. Jordan was the youngest of his friends and was determined to have his license as soon as he could. His dad drove him to the Department of Motor Vehicles the morning of his 16th birthday. I glanced at his Amherst College ID but couldn’t look at it for long without feeling regret and anguish.  I placed all the cards back in the wallet they way I’d found them. I closed the wallet and rubbed my hand against the leather. The textured leather was smooth in places that suggested how Jordan held it. I put my hand on the wallet carefully placing my fingers on the smooth parts hoping to mimic Jordan’s handling of it. I brought it to my face and held it against my cheek. I closed my eyes and felt the softness of the leather. In my hand the leather of the wallet became Jordan’s cheek held close to mine. I kissed the wallet, telling my boy how much he is missed and loved. The tears I’d held at bay all afternoon rushed out changing me from amateur detective to grieving mother in the blink of an eye.

To Jordan On His 21st Birthday

Banner at Jordan's tree dedication, August 2009-his 20th birthday

Dear Jordan,

I woke up around 5:45 this morning because I thought I heard your cellphone alarm. In the distance I heard your signature ringtone of the flute interlude from the “The Boondocks” show. Merrick still loves that show by the way. I watch it with him sometimes but he doesn’t laugh as long or as hard as he did when the two of you watched it together.

When I heard your ringtone I sat up in bed and my first thought was, “I wonder why Jordan’s getting up so early.” That moment was fleeting as I became fully awake and realized I’d only dreamed hearing your phone. Even still, I lay back on my pillow, closed my eyes and smiled remembering all the times you were just down the hall. I couldn’t sleep after dreaming of you being so close but I wouldn’t trade that moment of fuzzy awareness when I thought you were safely home even though I did have to let it go.

Today is your birthday and I’ve been thinking so much in the past week about all the things I imagine you’d be doing with your life. In my mind you’ve told me about your semester abroad in London and your travels in Europe. Right now you would be planning what countries you want to visit in Africa as you prepare for your Senior year in college. Watching your friends mature and settle in on various interests gives me a portal into what things you might be doing now. Kathryn keeps in touch and has been so kind and giving to our family. I see why you liked her so much. She like you is a Political Science major. I can imagine the long talks you two would have about how you planned to change the world. Matt, Billy, Luc, Quinn, Pat and Sam come to visit regularly. They keep us updated on their lives and take special interest in what’s going on with us, especially your siblings. They are amazing young men. Some of them have started a music production company and have “dropped”(I’m learning the lingo) two albums. They have enfolded Merrick into their group and he has done a couple of songs with them. Their love for you shows in the care they give your brother.

I watched that crazy YouTube video, “Charlie Bit Me,” this morning. When I was on my computer it popped up on the Huffington Post site and I couldn’t help but click on it. I laughed as I watched it, remembering when you first showed it to us. I don’t know how many times we watched the video that summer but I do remember all of us taking on British accents as we conversed in the house. The laughter and fun you brought into our home will always linger. Rarely a day passes that your brother and sisters don’t start a sentence with, “Remember when Jordan….” We all miss you. Learning how to live as a family of 5 when in our hearts we are forever 6 is so hard. We keep going fueled in part by our love for each other and the love and sweet memories you gave us.

Today, August 9, 2010 I’m struck by how much I anticipated seeing you turn 21. Your birth date is 8.9.89 and today, 8.9.10, I can imagine you proclaiming in your deep voice how incredible you are because of the way the numbers aligned for you. I realize that all of your milestone birthdays have been milestones for me as well given you’re my oldest child. You taught me what “5” looked like, what to expect with a teenager and the thrills that come with 16 and 18. Even though 19 was the last birthday we shared with you on this earth, what a milestone it has become. I want you to know how much you are loved and missed. We will celebrate today, this day, because it gave us you. Happy birthday Jordan



Jordan celebrating his 19th birthday with his siblings


Tomorrow’s date is 8-9-10. It is Jordan’s 21st birthday. I’m home today wondering how I’ll make it through tomorrow without crumpling and breaking. Today I keep agonizing over why I didn’t plan differently and have my family away for this weekend and tomorrow. Somehow the distraction of a different place seems like it would be a balm to ease us into honoring Jordan and celebrating his life. It may be “smoke and mirrors” to assume that a change of venue would mean hurting less. Right now it’s a chance I wished I’d taken. Today my mood has been one of longing and sorrow. Grief has me wishing I could transcend time, move to August 10th and keep August 9th as a day touched only by joy and celebration.

Last year was our first August without Jordan. We approached his birthday last year with trepidation and confusion. We knew we would ache for him and wondered how we would manage to celebrate his day. The day came and so did the realization that celebrating his life was vital to keeping his memory alive. This year feels harder knowing that last year was the beginning of our “August 9th’s” without Jordan. Tomorrow is a hallmark birthday, one of the final milestones of youth. It is a day that I looked forward to toasting with my son not in memoriam to him.

Tomorrow will come, as has every day since October 12th, 2008.  I hope and pray that intertwined with my sadness will be enough love to see me through. I miss my boy. I want Jordan back. I want him to come home. I want to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jordan and watch him proclaim himself officially a man. My heart is so heavy right now. The thought that tomorrow, especially tomorrow can come without Jordan on this earth makes my throat ache with tears.

Today I cry for all the things he doesn’t get to do or be. Would he have been the political pundit, expertly using what he’d learned as a Political Science Major? Or would he have followed his love for music, especially hip hop and jazz and became a record producer? When would he have married? Would he have travelled the globe having adventures and friends all around the world? Those are the things I wonder about and on good days dream about. I’m trying to let tomorrow,8.9.10, take care of itself without my worry and sorrow guiding its outcome. It will always be a special day because twenty one years ago, it gave me my firstborn. Jordan came into this world and gave me the gift of motherhood.

A special moment with my firstborn

Jordan at his 1st birthday party, laughing at his Dad whose trying to get him to blow out candle.

Jordan and I when we dropped him off at college his Freshman year.