Innocence is a strange thing to understand. It is given so easily, and can be taken away so mercilessly. Some can lose their innocence slowly and painlessly, but others are not so lucky and lose it in one blow. I was one of the unlucky ones.
I lost both my dad and my childhood when I was three and a half. I had no concept of death until the moment my mom said to me that "Daddy wasn't coming back" through her tears.
I hear all these great stories of him, of his sense of humor, his personality, and his charm. But I never had the chance to fully know him. I can't remember what he was like; the only way I can actually recall anything is from watching home movies or hearing stories about him.
In a way, my little brother was luckier than I was. Although he doesn't have a single memory of our father, for he was less than a year old when he died—which is terrible, don't get me wrong—he didn't have to comprehend anything until he was older.
On a warm, typical summer day in July, my dad was working outside the house with his new dump truck. I loved watching him work. It was magical the way his hands moved swiftly, his head tilted to one side in concentration. Sometimes he would lift his head, smiling, and yell over the noise, "Hey, Jesse, watch this!" And then he'd do something, and a dead lawnmower would come to life or a car would suddenly work again.
But that day was different; I know that now, although I didn't then. He was standing by his new dump truck, a look of bewilderment on his face. I stayed silent, not wanting to interrupt his intense focus.
He walked to the back of the truck and studied it, then crouched down beside it and raised the back part of it. It was then that it happened. In one swift moment, he collapsed, the back of the dump truck suddenly down. And I screamed.
I don't really remember what happened after that, and I never asked. Even now, more than a decade later, I shudder at the thought of what went through my three and a half-year-old mind.
I lost my childhood that day. Any child of any age would if they saw one of their parents die before their eyes. Death itself is so intense and so full of emotion and hard-to-grasp concepts that to ask a child less than six years to perceive and comprehend it is unimaginable, yet many have to cope with it.
The childhoods of many may be gone forever in physical form, and they may never come back, but in the subliminal mind—and for the lucky ones, in their conscious minds—it is there, and will always be there. We just have to find it.
I haven't found mine yet. It was so long ago, and I forget what it was like to be carefree, to have no certain incident staying with me through my adolescent years. My brother didn't see the crash, and he didn't fully understand anything that happened until later on. He didn't see our father die. He had a childhood.