August 1991. Hot. Very hot. It's been very hot for it seems like forever.
Son Kevin seems to have had a bad day at work. Had a fight with his supervisor.
After graduating from college he returned home to live. He could have lived on his own, but he liked things. He seems to want to start out where his father and I are leaving off financially. He expects to be able to afford stuff. Wants to be able to afford a nice place in a nice area. He has a little red Porsche in the driveway, a Gucci watch on his wrist, two-hundred-dollar shoes on his feet, but it's never enough.
I hear him argue on the phone with his girlfriend of seven years. Arguing about what they will do this coming weekend. It's only Tuesday, but he likes things nailed down. He's organized. Besides, she's living in Washington D.C. now and weekends take planning. Who's going where? He's going down? She's coming up? They argue a lot; it's nothing new.
My husband Niks leaves to go over to baby-sit dddragon's twin daughters, who have just turned one. Kevin is complaining to me about work, nothing new. He's frequently unhappy about the world in general. I'm in a hurry because I have to go to church to a Finance Committee meeting. He's still talking to me as I go out the kitchen door into the garage, leaning out the door to tell me one last thing. It's just another day.
Later, nine-fifteen, nine-thirty, something like that, Niks and I arrive back home at just about the same time. We enter the house together. Kevin comes down the stairs to greet us. He's tall and thin but comes bouncing down the steps like the little kid he still sometimes is. Niks is hungry and makes himself some little snack to eat. He asks Kevin if he had supper. Kevin is 26, but his father is still concerned about what the boy has for supper when we haven't all eaten together. I've always said that Kevin is an air-fern. You know, those little ferns that aren't even in soil, and you never have to water, yet they live anyway. Like that. The boy is a picky eater.
Kevin tells him what he had to eat. Must have gone out to a restaurant, because it sounded like a real meal. Niks said, "Was it any good?"
"Yeah. It was pretty good." High praise from the boy.
We all chatted about something. Can't remember now what. This and that. Kevin seems to be in a pretty good mood now. He goes up to his room. It's been his room since he was seven years old. It still is his room, for that matter.
We were watching TV. My husband Niks and I. POP. It sounded like a pop to me.
"What was that?" we asked each other. Both of us suspected. I suspected. Niks said later he knew. But we pretended for a second that we didn't.
"Kevin?" We called. But he usually had on headphones and wouldn't hear us calling.
He did have on headphones, and he didn't hear us calling. He was dead.
Well, not dead. His lungs breathed and his heart beat. But he was dead.
His father ran up the stairs to his room. I called 911 and my mouth went dry. Completely dry. I was telling someone on the phone that my son had shot himself, and I was aware that my mouth went dry. I marveled at that at the time. Not marveled that my mouth was dry. Marveled that I was aware of it. How could I think of it at a time like this? But I was doing all of those things at once. Giving my address, Kevin's age, my name, being aware of my dry mouth, and shocked that I noticed my dry mouth. It was so dry that it stuck to my teeth.
The paramedics arrive while I am still on the phone. Small town. The police keep my husband and me downstairs. Niks had already gone up while I was calling. He doesn't want me to see. I'm torn. But they're not letting me go.
They work on him for what seems like a long time. "Stabilizing" him. He's alive!
They have arranged for the Penn State Medical School hospital to send a helicopter for him. They bring him down on a stretcher and take him away in an ambulance to the park nearby, where the helicopter is waiting for them.
Niks and I follow in our car. Of course we can't keep up. The helicopter is probably in Hershey at the hospital before we've crossed the river only two miles away.
On the way to the hospital I convince myself that our son will be okay. He's alive. I tell my husband, "He's going to be okay. He'll be mad as hell when he wakes up tomorrow, but he's going to be okay!"
The boy's father says nothing. He's been in Kevin's room with him. He knows.
At the hospital they put us in a separate, private, waiting room in the emergency room area. I didn't know they had those. A chaplain comes and talks to us. Says that he's seen our son. "He's handsome. Athletic looking," he says. It doesn't occur to me to wonder why the chaplain has been in to see our son. I should have wondered why he would be in the room where they were trying to save a person's life.
We wait and wait. Seems like a very long time. Finally an entire group of doctors come in to see us. They explain that Kevin has had "no brain activity" since he entered the hospital. They aren't treating him. There is no treatment. His heart and lungs are strong, and continue on, but soon his brain will swell and those functions will stop. He is brain dead.
We aren't crying. Yet. We agree to donate his organs, but we, me really, want to see him. They stall me. They are pleased, excited even, but trying to hide their excitement, about the organ donation. A healthy twenty-six year old man. Man! He's only a boy. They want the organs. They need time to hook him up to lots of machines so that they can save the organs. I don't blame them; I just want to see him.
It suddenly hits me that maybe I don't want him on machines. Maybe that will cause him to be in pain. I ask. "No." they tell me. "He can't feel anything. The pain is all yours now." And so is was. And so it is.
It's past midnight by now. He is declared dead on August 7, 1991. My son, my son.