Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jason Estopinal

Families come in all sizes and shapes.  You don't even have to be related to be family.  That's how I think of Jason and Claire, two of my best friends in the world.  I wrote about them in this post when I was writing about what great friends I have.  I remember when their first son, Jason Junior was born.  And their second Parker.  So much of my life is made of memories of friends and the two of them share a wonderful part of it.

I don't even know how to write this.  On Monday their oldest son, JJ, was killed while serving on duty as a Marine in Afghanistan.  When I went to lunch I checked my email on my phone and saw an email forwarded from Claire and opened it.  It was a link to a newspaper article about the death of JJ.  I was stunned.  I didn't even realize I was crying until I felt the tears on my face.  

I remember when JJ was born, Claire wasn't going to let me feel awkward around the baby.  I wasn't use to babies, to me they were little people that others took care of.  Claire wasn't going to have any of that, the first time I saw them she pushed JJ at me and told me to hold on to him.  She made sure that I was comfortable with him.  One of my favorite pictures of me (and I generally hate pictures of myself) is of me holding JJ at one of the many BBQ/crawfish boils we would have.  Before I realized it I was babysitting JJ.  I can still remember when we'd all get together as a group and all the grown ups would be sitting around talking and I'd be running around the back yard with JJ.  

I don't even know why I'm writing this right now.  To be honest it hurts to just sit here and put these words down.  It hurts to remember him.  But all I can do is write.  That's all I have is words, however inadequate they are.  

Jason and Claire ended up moving to Atlanta so I didn't see them as much.  A few of us made a point of going every year to visit.  Than after awhile that stopped.  It seemed there were always too many things to do.   Than even the phone calls dwindled down.  It wasn't that we still didn't think of ourselves as the same friends. Life just has a way of making things difficult.  Last summer I talked to Claire and I had the best intentions of driving up to Atlanta and seeing them.  I would probably not be able to see JJ, he has joined the Marines and was finishing up Boot Camp that summer.   But I got sick, my Mom had surgery and again life just threw up too many roadblocks for me to make the visit.  

One of my favorite pictures.  I don't know how old JJ was, but he couldn't have been very old.

This picture was probably at Six Flags in Atlanta.  I just love that smile.

Me and JJ riding Splash Mountain. Notice how he's trying to hide behind me and let me get most of the water.
Didn't work.

Another trip to Atlanta.  This was at Stone Mountain.  That's Claire, JJ and his brother Parker and to their right my friend Sal and me kneeling in the front.

JJ and me riding away.

JJ with his brother Parker.

Jason as a Marine.

All my memories of JJ are as him as a child.  Even his name, his name is Jason, but when he was little everyone called him JJ and that's still how I think of him.  But he wasn't a child anymore, he was a man.  I wish I had been able to know him as a man.  He was 21, the same age as my niece.  I know he was a good man, he couldn't have been less.  And he would have continued to grow and become an even better man.

I left work today.  I thought I'd go back in but as I walked towards the door I knew that I wasn't going to be able to stay.  I told Krista, asking her to come outside to talk to her, and barely able to get the words out.  Saying the words made it too real.

So here I sit, trying to find words that can make some sort of sense of all of it.  I like to think of myself as a writer, but I can't find the words.  I try to think of some quote or passage, something that might make take the edge off some.  I like to think that I'm this fountain of knowledge when it comes to music and when I try to think of a song to download on this page I come up empty.

When I remember JJ I'll always remember the smiles and the laughter.


Travis said...

Damn John. I'm so sorry. Please pass on my deepest sympathies to his family. I will be forever grateful to Jason for his service and his sacrifice.

Take care my friend.

Bond said...

Well, I did not even know JJ and I am sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks.

What a wonderful tribute you wrote John...his parents surely will be touched by your words.

Please pass on my sympathies to his Travis also said, his service and sacrifice to our country will never be forgotten.

CrAzY Working Mom said...

Such a sad, sad story. We will be sending lots of love and prayers your way. Lord knows you will all need it. Thank heavens for people like Jason for his sacrifice. When I look into the eyes of my children, who are free...I think of Jason and his family (and you!)

Jessica said...

I am so sorry John. Such a beautiful tribute. So thankful for his service to this country.

Anonymous said...

I stopped by from Trav's blog. My deepest sympathies to you and to JJ's family. My gratitude for his service and sacrifice as well.

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