So much has been squeezed into the last 11 days that it all blends together into one long experience with no beginning or end in site. Every night we lay down at my Mom’s – wiped out and exhausted. Every morning I wake up to find Cathy laying next to me – already awake – already thinking. Already planning. Already wrestling with questions, some of which don’t have solutions. Already making lists. It’s hard. Time is flying by. And time is standing still for us. It’s a weird contradictory feeling right now.
Through all of this – the incredible support from the Stouffville community and our families and friends, the amazing compassion from our employers and colleagues, the aloof support from our insurance company, something that has risen above all the other noise is our kids. When a life changing event happens – you always look to your kids. How are they doing? Are they sad or happy today? Are they persevering or struggling? Are they comfortable? Are they warm? Are they hungry? Do they want to talk? I am so proud of these three kids.
Jacob is 15 – and lost everything. When you’re 15, your room is your temple. It’s where you keep your ‘stuff’. The stuff that matters and you’ve managed to accumulate. The stuff that is yours and nobody else’s. It’s an age when you start to develop that independence and maybe have your first job. Making money. You want a shirt – you order it on amazon because it’s rare, and you keep it in your room. The sports memorabilia and t shirt collection your Dad has given you over the years. The sports trophies and medals. The card from your first girlfriend. It all disappeared. Melted. Turned to ash and smoke. He left for school Feb 6th and it was there. It was all right there! He had a bed that morning. A dresser or two. Cologne. A beautiful camera. A desk. A PS Vita. Treasures and private things that meant a lot to him. He walked upstairs 9 hours later after a fire and it was unrecognizable and gone. All of it. Ashes and piles of debris and black nothingness. That – my friends – is a screwjob to the psyche. Where his bed once was now stood a charred skeleton of metal springs and frames. I’m just writing about it and not sure *I’m* ok with what I described. Jake is living it. Yet he’s still Jake. He’s still seeing his friends. He’s resumed going to school. He’ll probably start back at Metro as a cashier soon. He’s doing “ok”. Maybe a little quieter. Maybe happy to just play PS4 on the little monitor he’s using at my Mom’s as he hides in his cocoon trying to heal.
Jenna and Robyn are 10. They lost pretty much everything too. In some ways it’s easier for them – but in some ways it’s harder too. Because their knickknacks, their prized shells from Florida and Cuba, their ‘jewel collection’ from Great Wolf Lodge, their snowy owl statue, their Katy Perry posters and ‘worthless costume jewelry’ that meant everything to them, their horse paintings and OSPCA memorabilia they were so proud of – well, It’s there. It’s right there. Their bunk beds. Their new bedding they went shopping with Cathy and loved choosing themselves. It’s all right there. It’s caked with soot and toxins. The corners are turned up from heat and smoke damage. The colours are gone. It’s all there – but you see, it’s not. Because most of it’s not savable. Most of it is ruined. Most of it would carry the smell of the worst memory of our lives even if we used the limited insurance money trying to treat some of it. The early reports of “we think we can save it” somehow turned into “it’s pretty much all gone”. So that, too, is a screwjob to the psyche folks. But they’re still Jenna and Robyn. Happy. Pleasant. Loving. Empathetic and supportive of their Dad and Step Mom who they’ve had to see cry a tad too often in the last 11 days. They are doing “ok”. Maybe a little sad. Maybe missing their normal routine of 1 week with us, 1 with their Mom. Maybe missing their cat Alley who they hoped would ‘get better’ but just couldn’t – all while they had just started coming to terms with the loss of Elwood. But all said – they’re “ok”.
As a parent you feel like a failure. You feel like the things you have tried to make and provide and do for your kids have fallen apart. Like somehow you failed to keep them mentally safe – and their stuff safe. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t your fault – it isn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened. And you cope. Or you try to. Cathy and I are so proud of our 3 wonderful kids – showing a level of maturity and perseverance they shouldn’t have to at any of their ages. Yet they are. And we love them for it all the more. They are 3 exceptional wonderful people.
I had somebody tell me yesterday that Cathy and I seemed to have gone a little quiet on social media – and that an update was needed so that people didn’t forget. Life moves fast and people have busy lives. He poked and poked until I listened – and I decided to share the above. The outpoor of support has been wonderful. We appreciate you all very much.