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Forever Fourteen

Jakecollage (2)_edited-2

I was caught off guard by a long forgotten photo album that came toppling off the closet shelf. I hadn’t seen it for…well longer than I care to admit. While the colors had faded and the edges were bent from excessive handling, he remained the same.

In those early years I must have studied it a thousand times. It once held a prominent place on my nightstand, but with time came healing and it eventually found itself filed away for safe keeping — out of site and apparently out of mind.

I had grown accustomed to living in his absence, but its reappearance transported me back to a time of innocence. I could smile now as memories ran across my mind like a chattering old 8mm movie. It conjured up images of his playful smile and mellow attitude. I could visualize his “game face” as he piloted the Nintendo game controller through Donkey Kong and Super Mario. The photos piqued my curiosity and I wanted more, one more taste of those innocent days.

Surely the closet had to be hiding more than just this single album. A crazy idea popped into my head; what if it contained a photo I hadn’t seen before? The euphoria triggered by a godsend discovery like that would be better than striking gold.

That prospect set me off on a mission. I started pulling everything out. Soon the office floor was covered with what was once the contents of the closet. Through it all, I found only one lone box marked “Jake.” It indiscreetly sheltered the known remnant of his fourteen years, nothing new — nothing beyond — forever fourteen.

Then another thought hit me. Photos of him aren’t necessarily limited to a box in a closet. It is possible that an undeveloped roll of film could lay hidden in the back of a desk drawer. Or maybe a relative captured him in the background of snapshot taken at a family gathering.

There is an average of 60 million photos uploaded to Instagram every single day, all I want is one — just one picture I hadn’t seen before. I am certain it exists. Something different would be so gratifying.

Locating a new photo, however, would create a dilemma for me; its discovery would surely lead to my yearning for another. Just one more wouldn’t be enough, at some point I’d be wanting to know how he would have looked at sixteen? His friends continue to age and look so differently these days — what would he look like at thirty-nine? What would his children have looked like? I’d love to know how he would have turned out.

Then again, maybe I wouldn’t want to know. Maybe it’s best that he remains young and innocent in my eyes — forever fourteen.

I do believe we’ll see each other again. The thought of that reunion boggles my mind because I don’t quite know what to expect. Will I recognize him, or he me? Will he know what has taken place here in his absence? Will he grasp the extent of how much he was missed? Will any of that actually matter?

I wonder what I’ll look like when we meet again? Will I be energized, given fresh strength and wings to sore like an eagle? Will I walk without lagging behind? Will we again be father and son, or just two souls existing in paradise? Maybe in heaven we’ll all be fourteen — it wasn’t such a bad age.

But for now, I probably won’t be able to squash the notion that lying in the back of some dark closet exists one more photo waiting to be uncovered. With that being said, I guess it doesn’t hurt to continue searching…and digging…and hoping…just making sure I haven’t missed anything.

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16 thoughts on “Forever Fourteen

  1. I understand your longing. So much. I did have a thought of something you might explore. After Bethany and Katie died I asked on all our Facebook accounts that anyone who had a picture of them to please share it with us electronically. I know Jake was not here when Facebook erupted on the internet, but you may be able to reach out to some of his friends and your family members requesting any photos they might have. Print photos can to scanned and emailed to you or posted on your Facebook page if you have one. Most people have printer/scanners in their homes these days but if not, or if they have a lot of pictures, they taken to Sam’s club or maybe Walmart or Walgreens and be scanned quickly.

    You might be surprised and blessed by a response from his friends all these years later. My husband lost his best friend when he was in high school. David carried Joe’s locker key on his keychain until it was lost following the collision that took Bethany and Katie’s lives. David has never forgotten Joe in the thirty plus years since his death. He was heartsick to lose that locker key. I’m sure Jake had friends that remember him fondly and miss him still today too.

    I hope God surprises you with an unexpectedly discovered photo to bring a good memory back to the forefront of your mind. His mercies are new every single day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I too keep searching for photos and memories of my Alicia. I am forever thankful for all the posts by her friends of photos and memories they continue to share. It will be 4 years this Christmas Day, It doesn’t get easier, it gets different. I am blessed that you crossed my path!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I smile every time I see you post a picture of Alicia. You are right in saying: “it gets different” and I imagine for you, Christmas will always be different. Miss you my friend.

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  3. Gene,
    I came across a photo on Facebook of Cindy from friends we had in high school. It felt like it was answered prayer. After this years 4th anniversary I think of how I will be an age she had never experienced. Being she was was the older sister it feels like I’m going into the unknown. A place and time never experienced before, as we shared so much. I now and again peek on Facebook in the hope of another glimpse of one more memory to store.
    Janet

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being an age Cindy never reached does kind of make you stop and think. When we reach mile post events like that, we really can’t avoid comparing how things are now…and how they could have been.
      An old friend who now lives in California went through her photos after reading this post. She found three that included Jacob and sent them to us. How thoughtful was that! I hope that someone out there will provide you with a new glimpse of your dear sister.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gene, I loved this post. I can only imagine what it might be like to discover one never-before-seen photo of your Jake. I have to think that you will both recognize each other. As I grow older, I think about the people who have gone before me, and I look forward to seeing them. I often wonder what relationships will be like in heaven. Our God is a relational God, so they must exist there, right?

    In the meantime, I’m glad you have photo albums and other memorabilia to remind you of your vibrant fourteen year old boy.

    Liked by 1 person

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