Tuesday, February 17, 2015


"I knew him when…"

I cannot believe it when I get the call.

I knew him when
he was four years old,
a much-loved only child.
Standing at the door of my office
He had just learned to sing
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt.
"Miss Carol, can I sing you a silly song?"
His mother told me to say no,
that once he had started
he would sing it
again and again and again
but I said yes
told him that I had learned that song
when i was about his age
And together we sang it together
again and again and again.

I knew him when he was seven
and I had just adopted my boys
was worried that Son #2
didn't have any friends
so his mom sent her son
to play at our house
Kadeem didn't know you were supposed to offer
your friend a turn on the game controller
or pour two glasses of lemonade
when you went to the kitchen to get a snack
so he taught Kadeem
how to treat a friend
patiently reminding him
over and over again

And I knew him when he was eight
It was the first season of football
And he was a head taller
and twenty five pounds heavier
than any other kid on the team.
I helped his mother
ease the too-tight jersey
over his shoulder pads
then slit the sleeves
so they wouldn't cut off
the circulation
in his arms.

And I knew him when
he was eleven and twelve and thirteen
the middle school summers
when he slept at my house
almost as many nights
as he slept at his own.
I picture him sitting on the porch
when I drove up,
carful of groceries.
It didn't matter
whether my boys were with me or not
he'd stay and help me unload groceries
usually grabbing a handful of chips
or popping the lid on a Pepsi
as he sorted cans into the pantry.
My boys told me to go to the store
when Big Will wasn't there
because he would eat
half the groceries
before he left.

And I knew him when
he was fifteen and sixteen
best friend of my son,
the varsity quarterback
side by side on the bench
lacing up their cleats
before practice.
After a missed pass or an interception
Zay would stand
on one side of Kadeem
Big Will on the other
fiercely protecting my baby
from the jeers of the crowd.

And I knew him when
he was seventeen and eighteen
when pot became a huge issue
and I begged and cajoled
and threatened
we both cried
when I said
he couldn't come
to my house anymore

and i missed
the gentle spirit
housed within that enormous body
and I hoped that someday
he and my son
would find each other again
I was glad to hear
that he was doing so well
in the engineering college
at our university

then I got the call last week
he was in jail
until his parents could post
the seventy-five hundred dollar bond
for three charges
of felony sexual assault
he had been thrown
out of the university
date rape
I was heartbroken
wondered what combination
of drugs and alcohol
had led to such pure stupidity
could not believe this gentle giant
could be guilty
of a such a violent crime

i knew him when…


Lisa Corbett said...

That is hard news!! My brother had a very hard go during his teen years, but all is well now. Hopefully your friend finds his way.

Linda B said...

I love hearing your good memories, too, Carol, & hope things will turn out good someday. What a terrible thing to hear about someone you love. Hugs to you and your sons who must also be upset about their friend.

Tara said...

Heartbreak. But, you knew him when for a long, long, time, Carol. That beautiful soul is still there somewhere, perhaps looking for a way back home.

Judy said...

God, Carol, your writing and your trust in us blow me away every week. First, I am so sorry about Will. I don't know what to say that could make you feel better about this.
Second, your poem is so powerful because just as in life we are so unprepared for what happens. Keep writing.

Leigh Anne Eck said...

I honestly thought at the end of this poem I was going to find death. As long as there is life, there is always hope. By what you wrote about him, he obviously is a good person who made a mistake. We all make those. Focus on those good things and pray he finds a hand to pull him out of the pit.

Michelle said...

Heartbreaking news for you and your boys. All the ups and downs of life. I don't know what to say -- beautiful writing and memories. I pray that Will turns to God.

elsie said...

Carol, you write with such love for this boy. I hope he will find his way out of the dark place he is in now. What a moving piece of writing. You are so talented.

Tabatha said...

That must have been a rough call to get, particularly because you had been imagining him doing well, thriving, succeeding at school.

As the mother of a college girl, I can't help but think of the poor girl's family and her family friends who are thinking about her growing up years. So hard.

Dana Murphy said...

Oh my goodness, this is heartbreaking. I am so sorry. I pray he will find his way. I'm sorry for his family's pain, and for yours.

This is a beautifully written tribute to him. I hope he will read it someday.

Holly Mueller said...

Shoot - I think my first comment disappeared. If this is repetitive, please disregard.
Like Leigh Anne, I thought this poem was going to end in his death. Thank God it didn't. And again like Leigh Anne said, "As long as there is life, there is always hope." It sounds like you were very influential in his life and tried to mentor and support him. He may turn around yet if he knows people care. I can feel your great sadness for this turn of events.