Tuesday, June 26, 2007

“my wife killed my son”

nobody really knows what I do for a living, and it’s hard to describe, so usually I just say that I do music, which is more than most of what I do, so it’s a fair statement, and it’s more interesting to talk about than “business development”.

but during the week, I work for the chamber of commerce – doing a mix of economic research and business development – a good bit of what I do is go out and meet with business owners in birmingham, to provide assistance and conduct research on the business community. are you bored yet? it’s actually a pretty cool job.

anyway. today I drove up to walker county to meet with an automotive supplier. joining me in the meeting was an older gentleman from a state office, out of montgomery, who I will call sam.

sam and I have attended a few of these meetings together, but never really talked much. after today’s meeting, sam looked at me and he said “hey I’m gonna grab lunch up the road, want to join me?” sure.

15 miles up highway 78 and I was sitting in a green-roofed barbeque hut, me and sam, the only two guys wearing ties within 40 miles. the entire place looked up at us when we walked in.

sam is I guess in his mid 60’s. he’s got thin gray hair, sleek metal-framed glasses, hard blue eyes, sun on his face from several weekends of golf, and a thick, slow, southern accent. the kind of accent that you can only have if your grandmother was born in the deep south. sam’s speech is running to slow down. he takes his time with everything, and he seems to notice a lot too. the kind of man who observes much and comments little. I didn’t know what to talk to sam about at lunch, so I do what I always do when I don’t know what to say. I ask questions.

“you looking to retire soon?” (I have this tendency to ask questions that are borderline inappropriate) he said he was, in less than 2 years, looking forward to it. “what year was your grandmother born” 1897. around the time birmingham was born. fascinating. I asked if his family had recorded any of his grandmother’s stories. they hadn’t. “you have any kids?” sam hung his head and said no, he didn’t have any kids.

suddenly I felt bad for asking the question. something told me not to ask, but something else told me to go ahead and bring it up. sam looked back up, “I had a son, but he died. he was eleven. he was the most beautiful 11-year-old boy you would’ve ever met, too.” I said nothing. I raised my glass of sweet tea to drink, and kept listening. sam wasn’t finished.

“my wife, you see, she was emotionally disturbed. and one day, about 8 years ago, she killed my son, and then she killed herself.”

“sam, I am so sorry. I had no idea. I feel bad for bringing up a sensitive issue…”

he interrupted me.

“no. no. everybody says that. but you know what? I loved my son, and I love talking about him and remembering him. I never stop thinking about him, you know? so I don’t mind talking about him. I’d rather share my thoughts than keep them to myself. If you are ever in a conversation like this again – please remember that – I think most people like to remember the people they’ve lost.”

and then sam went on to talk about his boy. about coaching little league baseball – about how he didn’t treat his son any different than the other players – about how neat it is how boys around age 11 start to really gravitate towards their father, and how – and then sam just sort of stopped and looked up into a corner of the restaurant. his eyes heavy. he looked back at me.

"I just miss him, you know – he was a great boy…"

13 comments:

Andrew and/or Amy said...

dang brian. i was listening to "Lord dissolve my frozen heart." while reading that. i didn't mean to. it just happened to pop up. i havn't checked out your blog world in a while, so i decided i would. wow. thanks for reminding me to listen. i've been having some trouble at it lately.

Clint Wells said...

its weird how much softness and wisdom can come from such a painful place.

Aaron said...

My heart hurts as a father of a one year old. I hold back my tears thinking about loosing his sweet smiles, great pillow fights(yes we do that and he is just 1), and I guess the list goes on.
BTM you have a gift of having real conversations with people, this guy is proof of that. I hope you see that.

Nicholas said...

Brian. . . you remind me of jesus.

Brian T. Murphy said...

a and/or a: not checking my blogworld in awhile = great idea. but thanks for visiting.

clint - I know. I think that's exactly why older people (the one's I like, anyway) have softness and wisdom. that crap doesn't come easily.

aaron - I can't imagine anything worse than losing a child. I don't even have a kid, but it still seems like pain in it's most intense form to me. thanks for the kind words. not sure they are warranted. I think I just happened to have an intense lunch yesterday.

nicholas - yeah. right!

Robert said...

Great narrative. It's nice to hear truth in narrative. It's also nice that Brook didn't go crazy.

Brian T. Murphy said...

brooke didn't go crazy. (?)

Benj said...

Man, that is intense.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm totally bawling at this story, so maybe that cancels out the fact that I'm an anonymous commenter.

Patrick Sewell said...

I ate at that BBQ place three weeks ago. The food's good...

katie said...

wow brian. you really do have a gift at having real conversations with people. you really challenge me to get deeper with people. i tend to be afraid at what i will find...pain.

Anonymous said...

I'm at work Brian and I'm trying not to cry after reading this post. It's true. It's bittersweet, but I really don't mind talking about my dad. I like to tell people what a great dad he was and how lucky I was to have him for a dad...I miss him...thanks for this post: )Kari

And you do have a gift...I mean who else would I call when I'm pondering questions about what to do when someone says "I just don't believe anymore."

bruce said...

how horribly sad - that story broke me...