Lament for my son (part one)

“O, my son Absalom! My son. My son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Sam. 18:33

Time for bed - Debbi, Len and Janice

Time for bed - Debbi, Len and Janice

When Anne gave our first and only son the names Leonard Hendrik, the nurses of Grace hospital in Vancouver enthusiastically approved, as they had called him a little lion right at birth. Len, as he was called for short was a lady-killer before he could open his eyes.

He proved to be an easy baby as he just did not cry, which we lauded at first, but scared us later thinking that perhaps something might be wrong with him, but the doctor reassured Anne that nothing was wrong about him and eventually he would cry as well.

“Be happy that you have one like like that, millions of mothers envy you.” The doctor was right Len would cry after a while but he cried only tears and no sounds. We were uncomfortable with that too, but when he did make sounds and talked he used long words and words that we never used.

The first word I heard of him when our family, then living in Richmond across the Fraser river from Vancouver. When we drove over the old Fraser bridge, he looked down and said very clear – 'Water.'

From then on he talked but often words like the Latin name of a monkey tree like tree, whose name I can not recall, but the did not have pain so it seemed at least he did not cry out.

On Fridays I took him often with me to a bank I Vancouver to cash my pay check. Next to the bank was a small Italian restaurant where we ordered coffee for me and chocolate milk for Len. And of course a delicious piece of apple pie. The mama running the place liked Len and took him to her secret place where she made all her goodies, she made Len carry the pie to our table, praising him in Italian-English for his diligence, and for 'his good lookse,' which one day was going some girl very happy.

I built a platform in a tree at every house we lived in, so Len could safely built his tree-house, -fort, or what structure his imagination came up with, as his creative mind knew no borders. By building in a tree I kept him from hammering nails in floors of structures I was building, like the floor of a house we were constructing next door. His greatest joy was when a concrete-truck driver, who apparently remembered his own yearnings when he was a pre-schooler, asked Len to come along in the truck, set him on his knee and let him chauffeur that monster machine for a little way. His face radianced the same as when he scored his first soccer goal.

He made a friend of our doctor's son of the same age and together they explored the the decreasing green acres of the area which was doomed to lose its virgin state, but where they still found pails full of frogs of all sizes which they, after showing them off, and thereby terrorizing mothers and sisters, dutifully took back where they had found them, but not before they walked with their pails of plunder underneath the horse which happened to graze in their path. Len and his friend had a great life in the still mainly rural area.

When winter snow made a wonderland by coloring everything from mainly green to white, Len's sisters were involved in a snowball fight with some neighbor boys, which they were losing. Len's mind sought ways to rectify this. He loaded his Christmas gift, a little four wheel wagon, full with self made snowballs and supplied his sisters with them, who by this action made the boys surrender.

He used that wagon for another, embarrassing, purpose as well, embarrassing at least for me, being his father, although I was amazed at his resourcefulness. He was allowed to take some empty soft drink bottles to the local corner store a block away from our house and spend the few pennies they reimbursed him at the same store for some candies, but I saw him come back with his wagon loaded with more bottles than he had sold and decided to follow his actions. He returned with his wagon load to the same store, made his transaction, and went straight for the rear of the store where the 'empties' were stored and loaded his little wagon again obviously getting ready for the next transaction. He thus made it his enterprise to sell the storekeeper his own ware.

Not far from the same was a barber located where I had my hair cut and waiting my turn was reading a magazine to pass the time when came into the shop looked at the magazine in my hands then looked at me and loud enough for all to hear informed me “That is Playboy, dad.”

He said it not in a disapproving way but in fact he caught me reading a girly magazine and I wondered where he, not able to read since he didn't go to school yet, got the knowledge to check my literature and by stating it to my face certainly did not make me feel good.

Why I tell these stories about my son who died a violent dead in a car accident forty years ago? I think it is because the pain of 'losing' him has lasted its forty years, a pain somewhat described by king David in the bible, who lost his son Absolom in a violent and cruel manner as he cries 'O, my son Absolom, my son! If only I had died instead of you.”

O Len, my son...