When I was five years old, a boy in my kindergarten class drowned.

His name was Wesley.

I can’t remember his last name I don’t think Wesley and I were good friends.

I only remember fragments — small pieces of the whole picture.

After Wesley died, my teacher asked me how I felt about his passing.

I Don’t Know Why She Found It Funny

She laughed when I told her I was sad but had other friends to “cheer me up.”

I don’t know why I remember this or why she found it funny, but I do, and she did.

We had a memorial in front of the school.

It was early in the morning.

Wesley’s family was there.

I Got In Trouble During the Memorial Service

It looked like it was going to rain, or at least it did to me.

I got in trouble during the service because a classmate and I were stepping on each other’s shoes.

I don’t remember why.

That was when the principal, Mr. Shmuck,(that was his real name) grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and separated us.

He was old, and this was a long time ago, which is why you could get away with it back then.

the Age of Lasting Memories

The story I’m telling you happened almost 35 years ago.

I was at the age when you just begin to form lasting memories.

This probably explains why I remember how Wesley died, but not his last name or whether we were friends.

In my hometown, there is a lake in the middle of the city.

I later learned the lake is technically a lagoon.

A Courthouse Built In 1911

It’s 150 years old.

On the northeast end of the lake, there is a courthouse that was built in 1911.

There is also a Victorian-style house that’s close to the courthouse, but even closer to the lake.

I once went there on a class field trip.

It was fun.

If Wesley Hadn’t Drowned

If Wesley hadn’t drowned, I’m sure he would have been there too.

You may be wondering how Wesley drowned.

Fortunately, that’s one of the “small pieces of the whole picture” I do remember.

One day, Wesley’s uncle picked him up from school.

He told Wesley and his younger sister to play by the lagoon while he went across the street to a bar.

Wesley Was Just a Child

Not long after his uncle left, Wesley fell into the water.

The lake isn’t very deep, but Wesley was just a child.

And sometimes children don’t know how to swim.

Wesley was one of those children.

His little sister didn’t know how to swim either.

It Was Too Late

She just watched, unsure of what to do.

After all, she was just a child too.

By the time she found someone, all she could say was “Wesley downing.”

But by then it was too late. Wesley was gone.

Jailed

Wesley’s uncle went to jail.

But like I said, this was 35 years ago.

I’m sure he’s been free for years.

At least physically.

I can’t speak for his conscience.

Memories of Days Gone By

I don’t think about Wesley very often.

Rarely in fact.

I was just a boy.

I didn’t really know Wesley.

And I certainly didn’t understand death.

My Mom Died and I’m Sad

For instance, that very same year my mom’s mother died.

I remember walking into her room one night and seeing her sobbing on her bed.

She pulled me close and asked, “Do you know why I’m crying?” I shook my head.

“Because my mom died,” she told me.

“And I’m sad.” I don’t remember what I did, but if I could go back in time, I’d give her a hug.

Sister’s Guilt

When I do think of Wesley, I wonder about the life he might have lived.

I think about the pain his family would have been spared.

I think about his sister and the guilt she might still have.

I even consider the uncle, hoping he earned forgiveness from Wesley’s parents but also himself.

This is what I think about when I remember Wesley.

It’s Strange I Admit

I admit it’s strange to think so deeply about the events of a life you don’t think about much.

But I do.

Nick Maccarone, he is a storyteller.

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