The Last Photo

DSCN0237_4I rarely write about my son.  Mostly it is too painful because he died six years ago.  But as time goes by, and my heart heals, I find myself remembering the wonderful and funny things about his life…the good stuff, as they say.

Disney closed down three rides today, apparently from safety infractions.  Space Mountain was one of those rides.  This reminded me of one of the best days of my life; the day I took my six-year-old son to Disney World.  My husband, not his father, had business in Orlando for a couple of days, and since my boy had not yet been on a plane, I thought it a perfect opportunity to combine two firsts – like a plane ride and a Disney vacation.  With my husband still in graduate school money was tight, but one day at the theme park, just my son and me, was doable.  So we went.

The flight was pleasant, and he loved looking out the window at the tiny cars.  When we got to the metro in the airport that took you to the main terminal, he thought we’d landed in Disney and this was the first ride.  Our hotel was off the beaten path, something corporate that the company was paying for, and we ordered room service and all ate from one plate, knowing the next day we’d be paying $20 for a hot dog in the park.

We went everywhere.  We traipsed over the entirety of Disney World when you could actually do most of it in one day.  But I had to laugh at today’s safety issue concerns because in that one day, we got stuck in the monorail for at least a half hour.  A recording kept repeating that there was nothing to worry about, and to remain in our seats until we reached the next station.  Then we got stuck in the Pirates of the Caribbean, in a boat, in 2 feet of water.  The song continued, and the animatronics never wavered, but that boat didn’t move.  No recordings came on to calm us, and at the 20-minute mark we watched workers popping in and out of the cave we were in, then sloshing in the water doing something to the tracks.  Meanwhile, I’m scoping out those illuminated “EXIT” signs that were plainly posted, imagining carrying my son to safety if the need arose.

And that’s not the end of it.  We went on those hanging gondolas at the very end of the day to get a bird’s-eye view of where we’d been and to cool off.  Naturally there was a delay and we were left hanging and swinging and again listening to a recording from a speaker in the gondola warning us not to stand or move about, but to remain seated until the gondola regained power.  At which point I looked at my son, thinking he’d about had it with all the problems and delays, and warnings, and mishaps.  But he was oblivious.  He was still thrilled.  He didn’t have a clue that all was not copacetic, and instead thought this was just grand.

Space Mountain, the Matterhorn, and the other famous rides including the jungle boat ride were highlights.  I have 5000 pictures I took that day, and asked strangers to include me in many of them.  His joy and enthusiasm in picture number one is almost identical to picture number 4999, though his face had some sunburn at the end of the day.   But I, clearly, was overwhelmed by the day, and my 4000-series pics had me looking like I’d been run over by a truck.

In retrospect, it was a glorious day.  It was time for just the two of us and it remained special.  So special, in fact, that the year before he died, we went back to Disney, all three of us together this time.

He was 25 years old and my husband and I had moved to Florida.  No planes or trains were involved.  We just drove up, parked, and took our lazy time doing some of the new rides and some old ones we wanted to revisit.  One of them was Mission Space.  I didn’t want to go.  I’d listened to the myriad of warnings while waiting in line.  They insisted I take the ride.  They kept pushing me forward in line.  I would be sorry if I didn’t.  “I would regret it,” they said. 

We were strapped in so tight we could hardly breathe, and because we were in a centrifuge, this was more visceral than visual in its terror.  My husband was on one side of me, and my son on the other. My job was navigator, so I was pushing buttons mostly in the beginning, but upon take off, I could do nothing but scream like a Banshee.  When the ride was over my son said he heard nothing but my guttural screams, and wanted to take the ride again just to hear what they were saying.  We howled for hours about that ride, and somewhere in the back of my mind I think that day, one of the last we ever spent together, was the best of my life.

And yes, that is the last photo taken of us together, and taken almost exactly twenty years after our first trip to Disney.  It’s a photo that remains on my desktop as a reminder of how incredibly fantastic, and how profoundly tragic, life can be.  I’m so, so glad I took that ride.

About Patsye

I am an older woman and artist. I love to craft. I love to sew and knit and crochet and needlepoint. I love to paint and draw and make art with my hands. Being creative is what gets me up in the morning. Art is my tea, my fresh air, my good book, and my cats all rolled into one. I have much to share and hope you'll visit often.
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10 Responses to The Last Photo

  1. Myra Lewis says:

    A very touching story of you and your son. I came upon your blog by accident … then again, maybe not. I too have lost a son and was feeling blue today, a beautiful day, wishing he was here. There seems a bitter/ sweetness to everything we do. Life must go on of course, and knowing God’s promises, we shall see him again. The best to you and yours.

  2. averyclaire says:

    Thanks for sharing this memory Patsye….it is precious. Warm hugs going your way!

  3. He was a handsome man, Patsye! I’m so glad you have that picture to remind you of all the wonderful times you had together. I truly believe he would want you remember him that way forever.

  4. Sue McB says:

    Memories are so incredibly special, sharing this one can only bring goodness to all who read about the loss of your precious son. I admire anyone who can continue on with such a hole in one’s life. All the best.,

  5. Max says:

    Ruth … I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s illness. I pray he will get better.
    Patsye … good that you took the time to share your precious memories with us.
    Here’s to better days for us all,

  6. Tesia Harris says:

    We are taking our first Vacation Thanks to You and the talks we have had at Lowes. I’m Ready to make Memories Instead of dreaming.

    • I am so happy for you both. And your choice of destinations will make for a glorious trip. You will come back with many memories and stories to share. I can’t wait to hear them! Have a wonderful trip. Patsye

  7. Ruth says:

    I think it is the everyday photos we took that sometimes become the treasurers we keep. Moments of spontaneous joy! My husband had a brain hemmorage last Saturday so life is very difficult right now and I am looking at a photo taken on Easter Sunday that is reminding me of our wonderful life together….let us pray that he will make some recovery.

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