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More Stories - The Way We Were
Fences & Funerals
A sad letter from niece Tara and hubby Jon, with a request for prayer for this grieving family:
From their friend Kris:
One of the more misquoted and misunderstood phrases in the English language, attributed to Shakespeare, is "It's an ill wind that blows no good." This was not what Shakespeare said, but one interpretation of that misquote is that good things can come out of bad. If just a few parents read this and stop to think, and take action that saves lives, Joshua will not have lived in vain.
My son Mark is now past 50 years of age, and I still marvel that I was able to raise that kid without losing him. The more intelligent and active a child, the more trouble they get into as they explore their world. At five months he climbed out of his crib more than once, going splat onto the floor, and while we briefly and seriously considered that horror solution of making his crib into a cage, we instead sawed the legs off so he didn't have so far to fall. He spent most of the next two years sleeping (unbelievable, but you had to know him) under our bed.
When Mark was about the same age as Joshua and Brennin, he was almost supernaturally strong. He would climb up door facings using his fingertips, and then climb across the tops of the doorways, hanging by his fingers, and down the other side. I couldn't leave him with a babysitter. I couldn't even leave him with his daddy without misgivings. Once when Floyd was repairing our car, he couldn't get a bolt started by feel in a blind spot, and asked me to do so. I warned him to watch Mark, but he forgot and was trying to help me reach the right place, etc. When I got the bolt threaded in I turned around, and to my horror, Mark was on the neighbor's second story 2 x 4 wood porch railing, walking along happily. I told him as calmly as possible, "Stand still, and if you fall, I'll never talk to you again." While Floyd rushed up to rescue him, I stood below hoping to break his possible plunge onto the cement below if he lost his balance.
By two years old, Mark had learned to open any locks, latches or doorknobs. He could climb any fence. We had a 4 ft. by 30 ft. patch of back yard, opening onto an alley with frequent traffic. We had a doorknob, a Yale lock and a chain, and he would climb up in a flash, opening as he went. It was an old, wooden building, and I was afraid to padlock us in because of the fire hazard. Having no extra cash, we were panicked until we found a cheap 50 ft. roll of used hog wire (a kind of wire fence with little triangles that will kill your toes and fingers and are too small for a whole foot), six feet high, and installed it with steel stakes so he had a "run" to play in. We even buried it a little so he couldn't easily dig under. We made a gate of the same material and chained and padlocked it.
One of my most difficult maneuvers in those years was using the bathroom. I couldn't leave him alone for a minute. When his older sister was home she would restrain him, but if I was alone I had a big problem. Two slide locks and a knob were on the bathroom door, a knob and two locks on the front door going out to the porch, and a knob, Yale lock, slide lock and at the very top a chain on the porch door. We had a high claw-footed tub. I would make sure everything was locked, put him in the tub, and then try to keep him from getting out and away before I finished.
One of my worst nightmares nearly came true one day when I lost him. He got away from me as I was using the potty. Up the door frame, unlocking as he went. I finished rapidly, pulling my clothes on as I ran behind him, getting out of the bathroom just as he finished off the porch door locks and took off on a run. (I was pregnant and not very fast, either at getting my maternity girdle back on nor at running.) We lived in a rear apartment. I was about fifty feet behind him when he and our dog disappeared around the corner of the front house. When I got out there he was gone, completely.
Our neighbors had seen and heard about his antics before, and all turned out to help me look. After about ten minutes I called my husband and the police. We re-tried all the sheds, garages, utility rooms and doors where the residents were away. Neighbors whose doors or windows had been open searched their houses with the police. He was nowhere; obviously he had been abducted! But who would abduct the dog too? (It wasn't a very attractive dog and hated to be caught.)
Almost an hour later our landlord, who lived in the front apartment, came home to find the police, neighbors and us milling about in a panic. We told him about Mark, but forgot to mention the dog, who was the least of our worries at that point. I was pacing the sidewalk out in front, crying and in a terrible state of nerves, when I realized the landlord (not the brightest star in the sky) was in his apartment scolding, repeatedly, "Bad dog. Bad, bad dog. Look what you did! Bad dog...."
I rushed in and sure enough, there was a very abashed mutt, with a bisque cigarette dish uncapped in the middle of the floor and a bunch of shredded cigarettes.
"Look what this dog did!" exclaimed Mr. Sherman indignantly. "How could he get into a locked apartment? How could he get this dish off the end table onto the floor without breaking it? Why did he shred the cigarettes?"
We immediately began a search of the apartment, and found Mark hiding under the bed (where else!). The landlord swore he had locked his door when he left (he always did), and while Mark could unlock doors of any kind from the inside at under 2 years of age, how did he unlock it from the outside and lock it back behind him? By the way, this is a true story. I have witnesses. And that escapade was just the beginning.
Thank goodness Child Protective Services was a little less likely to be called, or I'd have lost him there too! And one thing is for sure; if we'd had a pond or pool, or lived by a river, canal or lake, Mark probably wouldn't be with us today.
I guess it's "bad genes". If my parents hadn't put a harness and leash on me when we went out in public, I probably wouldn't be alive and writing this website. I remember well straining to get away, to examine the trolley tracks, clamber under train cars, climb scaffolding or the rails of the mezzanines and ride the escalators. My granddaughter Jackie led my daughter (a "good" child who rarely got in trouble except when following Mark) through similar escapades, the "bad genes" having skipped a generation.
You may sincerely believe that you won't leave your toddler or youngster unsupervised. But you will. You may be convinced that your small ones won't get away from you. But they do. You'll have a bout of diarrhea or have the stomach flu and be losing your cookies, or one of your other kids or a neighbor will have an accident or be in danger; or something in the kitchen will catch on fire, or the sewer will back up into the bathroom, or you'll get a phone call which will take your mind off the children, or you'll depend on a relative or babysitter who isn't as attentive as you believed, or a child will quietly get up at 4 or 5 AM while you're asleep... the probabilities are endless. Are your kids healthy and smart? Those are the most likely to get into fatal trouble. Unless you've had years of experience with children (and most young mothers haven't) it is beyond belief what wee ones will take it into their heads to do, and how little attention they may pay to your rules and commands. It's a wonder any kids at all live to grow up.
Last week on Florida's west coast, three boys, well behaved middle children in a family with five kids, somehow climbed over fences and got into a neighbor's pool. The father had left them safely in his fenced back yard while he prepared lunch. The neighbor with the pool, behind a locked fence, was in another part of her house. All three, silently and inexplicably, drowned.
Better to put a permanent pool cover or fill in the pool and forgo its use than to depend on a fence or swimming lessons, or even a pool alarm. Better to fence off ponds, canals, lakes and streets (I recommend that ugly hog wire for dangerous areas, or spiked high wrought iron; kids can scale anything else) than depend on lectures, threats, and your intentions to be vigilant. Kids really don't listen, and you absolutely cannot watch them every minute.
Such fencing or pool covers can be quite costly, especially if the space to be protected is large. Maybe your budget is too tight. But think about it. Compare the cost of fencing, etc. with the monetary and emotional expense of a funeral.