When my boys were in the first grade and kindergarten, respectively, they came home from school each day with some different fantastic tale of what had happened in school. At that age, they couldn't wait to tell me of their adventures. "Jaqueline stood on a table and pulled down her panties," my oldest exclaimed excitedly. Then as an after-thought, he said, "But I didn't look, Mama." Looking into those big brown soulful eyes, I knew he was lying through his teeth. But who wouldn't want to see the big show?
Travis of course had to come up with something equally fascinating. "Well, Jonathon stood on the table while Mrs. B was at the office? And, he pulled down his pants and everybody saw it all!!" This was the first I would hear about Jonathon Owney, and his escapades.
The next time I heard about Jonathon was from his own mouth. I received a phone call just after putting away the dinner dishes. Looking forward to the evening lull, before baths and bedtime, ("Travis, remember to use soap this time!@".) The phone rang and when I answered, a very young man, said, "Mz Youngblood?" "Yes," I said. "Who's this?" "My name's Jonathon and I want you to tell EJ to quit beating me up at school." "EJ beats you up at school?" I inquired. "Yes, he does, ma'am, everyday. Can you make him stop?" Jonathon made such a humble plea, that of course I said I would speak to EJ.
Ej of course denied everything, claiming it was the other way around. I just told him not to fight at school. I was not looking forward to hearing Jonathon's parents giving me a call. (I had already had a most impassioned and heated conversation with a woman on our street who accused EJ and another boy of stealing her sons sticks from her yard. "Sticks?" I said. "Can't he just find some others? I mean there practically everywhere..." But no, these were special sticks. The debate raged on ending where I told her to grow up and she said I was a negligent mother.)
The next thing I knew, Jonathan asked for Travis to spend the night. As it turned out, Jonathon lived with his Grandparents, and soon EJ, Travis, and Jonathon were fast friends. Jonathon spent almost as much time at my house as he did at home. However, as the years passed, the boys took special precautions whenever Jonathon paid a visit. Jonathon, when he was twelve, was approaching 6' and with a big build. He ate voraciously. The boys put all the good snacks in the dryer, and the good pop, especially Mt. Dew. Actually it was my idea, cause hey, Jonathon could go through some groceries. So they ate dinner and pop corn, and drove me crazy, but that's as it should be.
Oh, the stories I could tell you! The disappearing cigarettes, the neighbor's corn field that was destroyed, as they told me, "by a mean guy on a motorcycle who chased them up the drive.." I actually called the police on this one.
The night we caught them in their clubhouse, with girlie books, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and one beer. My husband snuck up on them and listened outside, as they said fuck this, and shit, and Goddamn that. Actually, just boys being boys. After we hooked them up to a battery tester, (which we said was a lie-detector) their emphatic denials quickly changed to "well, maybe I did chew some tobacco.."
The time EJ recorded Travis and Jonathon pretending to be male dancers, bearing it all for the camcorder. We found the tape, (which mysteriously disappeared after viewing) and laughed so hard, we thought we would choke.
Throughout their school years, of course they got into trouble. But nothing outrageous. (I did think suspension was more a punishment for me than for the boys, though.) Jonathon always went with us to Bush Gardens, and the movies, or where ever.
The boys watched while I busted my ass on rollerskates. I watched while Jonathon somehow managed to wreck his bike when he was at our house, or jump on a piece of glass, how he unerringly located whatever accident waiting to happen.
They developed their own game called doo-doo stick, which is pretty much self-explanatory, and they chased each other around the old farmhouse with it. Jonathon always had some wonderful new puppy that he nurtured until it grew big enough to get sick, or otherwise meet some horrible demise. The last time I saw him, when I went to make sure he had heard about Travis, he had a huge rottweiler standing in his living room, called Baby.
Travis, in one of our last conversations, before he left for Iraq, said when he got back, he was going to get an orange jump-suit, and visit Jonathon where he worked, telling him he had just broken out of jail. "With my tattoos, Mama, he'll just about shit!! I'll scare him to death. And beg him to hide me, please, their after me!! Dude, you got to help me!!"
Travis didn't get that chance. A few months after Travis' funeral, Jonathon moved to California. It wasn't very long after he moved that we learned he had been in a car-wreck, sustaining serious head injuries and was in a coma for two weeks. We anxiously awaited news, and learned he would be ok, but it would take a long time for him to recover. The last thing I had heard was that he was going through extensive rehab, and was learning to talk again.
Then yesterday, May first, two weeks and two days before his 28th birthday, he died. It hasn't even really hit me yet, or EJ either. The three boys had developed a bond that would remain intact through the course of their young lives. And, now he is gone, leaving behind a young wife and daughter, and it is yet another tragedy that we cannot grasp. There was something so innocent and appealing about Jonathon. He was like my "third" son, in so many ways. I cherish the memories I have of him.
The only comfort I have found, is that Travis will be there to help him when he crosses over. After the initial shock, it was the first thing I thought.