Monday, September 15, 2008

The day my cousin drowned

I am the oldest of three grandchildren on my mom's side. My mom's sister, my aunt Betty, had my two cousins Midge and Frederick. Midge and I grew up almost as close as siblings because of proximity and sheer amount of time we spent together. So we loved each other as much as siblings might, and we hated each other as much as siblings might.

Frederick is two years younger than Midge, but he didn't have a good start in life.

One summer day when Frederick was two years old, Midge (at age 4) and I (at age 8) were sent outside to play. I think the other kids were living with my grandparents and I was spending a typical weekend at their house. As the oldest, it was my job to mind the other two. I wasn't so good at looking after them, and became distracted by one of the many games Midge and I used to amuse and/or annoy each other in my grandparents' back garden.

My aunt had locked the door when she sent us outside, either by accident or to prevent the incessant in-and-out routine that we were so fond of back then. Either to tattle on someone else, or pee, or get a snack we were bothersome by routine and were forever being yelled at to pick a location and stay there. We often ignored such directives, and the door sometimes got locked behind us. Sometime during the day we lost track of Frederick, and he fell into the pool and drowned.

When I discovered him, he was grey-faced and unresponsive. I didn't know enough to pull him out of the water and start CPR and I panicked when I discovered him floating face-down. When I couldn't get inside the house nor rouse my aunt, I left the yard and ran to the fire department located at the opposite end of the street from my grandparents' house.

The building was empty, and I couldn't find any firemen. We later learned the fire men were having a barbecue in the yard behind the fire station and I was thoroughly berated for not locating them properly.

Frederick was eventually taken to the emergency room, where he was placed on life support. He was comatose, and would remain so for two years.

My grandparents and Aunt Betty blamed me for "the accident", as they refer to Frederick drowning, and it was a long time before I understood that I was not at fault for what happened. I no longer feel responsible for his current state, which is vegetative, but that early hurt drove a wedge between me and my family, one that is not fully healed today.

5 comments:

ThisJane said...

oh jade...how terrible to place that weight on a child, I'm sorry but Sooo glad you now know the difference.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Oh, Jade. This makes me so sad. Hugs to you.

Mantramine said...

Yikes and holy shit. I am horrified that your family should do that to you, I am glad that you have let it go. Very hard stuff though...

MargauxMeade said...

Oh, Jade, what a horrible thing to go through. I know you already know this, but I'll say it, too: IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. I have a feeling the adults involved felt incredibly guilty and needed someone to blame. What I thought when I read this was: Who locks the door on children playing outside? Also, the adults should have been checking on the kids from time to time. You were way too young to be in charge of looking after the little ones without adults checking in frequently.

Carie said...

You've told me this story before, and I even think your mom told me the story once, and every time I hear/read it I get so mad! You deserved better as a child than being blamed for something that was not your fault. Your aunt should have assumed all responsibility from DAY ONE for not watching her own child.

Grrrrrr.......

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