"A man, like clay, is molded by his surroundings," my dad used to say,” He starts to take shape of the beatings and the pounding."
I never understood what he meant when he said that. I just thought it was his way of looking at the world through his work. My dad was an artist one of the very best I always thought. He worked in clay, wood, and stone sculptures. I sometimes wonder why I don’t have any artistic ability but I like to think that I am better at some things than he was. Even though he was great at his art he didn’t have much of a head for anything else.
After having my son I think I understand what he meant by this saying of his. Being a single mom isn’t the greatest thing on the planet, and having no male influence I can see is already taking its toll on my son. Archer, he was named for my dad, is 4 and he's such a sensitive little boy. I wonder if having a father would have made him less sensitive. He's so smart and creative and a joy to be around but he's starting to get teased in school for being so different from the other boys. I fear sometimes if he will remember the hurtful things that they say and I fear how those mean words will mold his mind and his behaviors.
Yesterday he asked, "Mom, why don’t the other boys like me?" I had to sit and think of what to say for a minute then I said;
"Oh, honey. Not everyone likes everyone. I'm sorry that you’re having a rough go of it at school, but it will get better. In a month they won’t remember why they won’t like you and they'll move on to someone else to tease. Aren’t any of them your friend? I saw you playing with a little boy at school yesterday. Wasn’t he your friend?"
"He's the new kid. His name is Joel. He seems really nice and we did have fun yesterday. Does that mean were friends?" he said a little excited at the prospect of having a friend that wasn’t a girl.
"Well, he sounds like a good boy and it sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship to me," I said.
The days go by and Archer and Joel have become the best of friends. They laugh and play and Archer tells me of all they do at school. Then something strange happened the other day. Archer came home sad and withdrawn. I asked him;
“What’s wrong honey? Did you and Joel have an argument?”
“No,” he said.
“Then what is it? Come on you can tell me can’t you?”
Archer turned to me and for the first time in months wanted to be held and cuddled. He crawled in my lap and he just cried, cried, cried. I held him and I tried to comfort him When he finally calmed I waited for him to tell me what happened, and he said;
“Mom, why did it have to happen? Why did he go away?” he said
“I don’t understand honey. What hap……..” I said just as the phone rang.
“Hold on baby. Hello? Yes this is she.” I answered the phone. It turned out to be the principal of the school and he told me that Joel was found to be dead this morning in his home, cause of death unknown at this moment but the authorities would be looking into it.
I now knew the anguish my little boy was going through. Poor Archer and Poor sweet Joel for Archer had lost his very best friend and Joel had lost his life.
Over the next months I concentrated on getting Archer to understand life and death and that HE had nothing to do with Joel dying. We found out that Joel had died of a head injury that he had suffered 2 days before at school. What everyone thought was just a bad bump to the head turned out to be Talk and die syndrome. Joel had suffered such extensive brain damage when he fell from the playground equipment that it was only a matter of time before he did whether or not he had gotten medical treatment.
We went to Joel’s funeral and we go every week so that Archer can tell his friend what was happening at school. It helps him cope and in some way it helps me as well.
When my dad died right after Archer was born I took him to the grave site and I’ve taken him every month since his birth. So I guess he gets it from me.
It’s been 2 years since Archer lost Joel. Joel’s parents have gone through a divorce and his father has moved. We go and see Margaret twice a month just to sit and give her some company. Archer talks to her of what he talks to Joel about school, his art project, friends at school, trips we take.
She seems to be doing better and I attribute it all to my Sweet, sensitive boy. He still gets bullied at school and we’re still working it out, and assuredly we will have many more problems to whether but through it all he’s still my Archer.