I started woodworking when I was in my junior year of high school. The class was one of the electives that I could choose from, and despite never doing it before, I thought it would be a fun and interesting thing to learn. And I was right; the hands-on nature of the craft, coupled with certain mathematical and spatial capability requirements combined to create an engaging and satisfying environment.
A few months later, approaching the end of the year, I started dating Diane, the woman that would I would eventually marry. She told me once that she really loved the smell of the cherry wood sawdust that would sometimes cling to my clothes after class. I could understand the feeling. Woodworking was my second love, after Diane.
Once we graduated, I wanted to keep going with it, so I made my way to the local hardware store to gather up the necessary tools. Diane was very supportive of the idea at the time, but quickly realized the mistake she had made. You see, she wasn't a fan of the noise that those machines produced; that ear-splitting grating would drive her mad some days. I was kicked out of the bedroom more than once because of it.
Things got a fair bit more complicated after our son was born. I did my best to keep the noise down, but little Nate had super hearing, I swear. He would start crying, and then Diane would start scolding, all the while trying to calm our little man. Even manual tools didn't do the trick; he could always tell when I was working out in the garage.
I spoiled him like crazy. I got him all sorts of pirate and superhero themed stuff for his room. A little mobile of pirate ships twirled above his crib, lego sets of the ships from Pirates of the Carribean were placed on high shelves, and his sheets and blankets were laden with pictures of Superman. Our boy never complained about anything that I would give him, just the stuff that I would make. The exception was a small ship that I machined out. Despite crying every time I went to work on it, he loved the toy once he had it.
Then, one night, I went out to work on a small desk piece: a chessboard, complete with pieces. It was late, but I hadn't made much progress on any of my projects that week, and just felt the urge to move forward. I had the various strips of wood clamped and glued together, and needed to cut them up into strips composed of alternating colored squares. I didn't want to wake up Nate, or much less Diane, and opted to use the handsaw instead of the circular.
I was actually impressed with how much I managed to get done. I had nearly finished the main base of the board, and had gotten a few pieces prepared for the border. The entire time, I didn't hear a peep from inside. I gave myself a metaphorical pat on the back and dropped my sweaty, sawdust-covered clothes in the bathroom, electing to take a shower before climbing into bed.
I was interrupted partway through washing my hair, a piercing scream from somewhere outside the bathroom door reaching my ears. I jumped out, wrapping a towel around myself and looking for something I could use as a weapon, just in case. I elected to take the toilet paper stand and opened up the door. Across the hall, I could see Diane in Nate's nursery, her back to me and her hands held up in front of her. I approached and put my hand on her shoulder, asking her what was wrong. I felt her recoil at my touch, and I could see her hands covering her mouth as her tears streamed over her fingers. I didn't understand, but then I looked into the crib.
We held the funeral a few days later, September 17th. We didn't have an open casket, though it was in the room throughout. It was so tiny. I didn't know they made them that small. It was hard trying to keep from crying as the minister went on. Diane tried too, I think, but she couldn't do it. I don't blame her.
We got to see him one more time before the burial. His lips were peach colored and a tad rosy, not the dull blue they were when we found him. Whoever was in charge of him at the mortuary was skilled, but it was still disturbing. There was something about him that was different, even though he looked just like he was asleep at home. But there was a different feeling being with him then. There was no joy or frustration or laughs. There was nothing, an inexplicable absence that pulled at my heart from the inside. I knew that Diane felt the same.
Life was different for a while after that. We cleared everything out of his room, and just did our best to move on. We became testier with each other, but we both knew why. And eventually, we stopped talking for a full month. It was the hardest experience that I had ever had to go through, but I was patient and tried to show that I was still there for her, for us. Eventually, she relented, and we had a long talk about what to do next.
I wanted to do one last thing for Nate. A sort of send off, a way to finalize this awful time so we could start again new. I put forth the idea to Diane, but she wasn't on board at first. She hated the sound of the machines, and so had Nate. But I convinced her that it was a good idea when I outlined the final result. She still wasn't happy, but she agreed that it was a good thing to do.
I gathered the wood that had been sitting along the side of the house for nearly two months. The long boards that Nate's crib was made from were just the right size and color. The weathering added to the asthetic of it, and beyond the boards, I didn't need too much. A couple of iron strips, several screws, and one oversized padlock later, it was finished.
An old, banded, pirate chest, perfect in size to hold all of Nate's old toys, sheets, blankets, and clothes. A box to lock away all of the things that reminded us of the greatest tragedy we could ever experience. Once everything was packed inside, I took it up to the attic, where it will stay forever. After that, we could finally move on, together.
Recently, though, Diane has been crying a lot. At first, I thought that she was still holding on to the memory of Nate. Maybe she still thought about finding him there, in the crib. One night, I felt her get up out of bed. She didn't know I noticed, and once she was out of the room, I got up to see what she was doing.
I peered around the doorway, and watched her go into Nate's old room. She stayed there for a few minutes. I got back into bed when I heard her turn to come back. When she came back into the room, she was crying again. But I don't think it was because she was remembering Nate. I could hear something, coming from the vent on my side of the bed, and I finally understood why she was still so upset.
You would be too, if you could hear your dead son crying from the attic.
Written by TheWizardOfTheWoods