Sometimes the Internet Just Sucks
March 1, 2010

I got my first babysitting gig when I was 13. It was for the kids across the street, the oldest of whom was my little sister's age, 9. Michael, Suzanne and Alison.

That first gig went beautifully until I was putting them to bed and then it turned into an unmitigated disaster.

You see, while we had a dog when I was growing up, she was banished to the backyard. If I played tug with her or ran around with her too much, Mom would insist that I was "going to make her mean." So I didn't have a whole lot of experience with dogs.

The last thing the parents said before they left was to be careful around Honey-Dog the dachshund. The big, fat, cranky dachshund.

To my overprotective and inexperienced mind, this meant I had to protect the children FROM Honey-Dog, not that Honey-Dog would be attempting to protect the children from me. So, we'd all gotten along swimmingly that evening and I went to put the kids to bed. Michael wanted Honey-Dog to come to bed with him and I thought if anyone should pick up the dog, it should be me.

Inexperienced.

With no warning (even in retrospect, there was no clear warning), she leapt at my face and bonked my nose, making it bleed. I shoved an ever-present Kleenex at my face, finished putting the kids to bed and went into the bathroom to figure out why the heck this bloody nose wasn't really slowing down.

Yeah. Umm.

There were a couple of claw marks or possibly very slight punctures on my nose, but Honey-Dog had actually managed to open my upper lip, nearly all the way through. Well crap.

All I could think was that I'd failed. I'd messed up. I'd done it wrong. My first babysitting gig and I royally screwed up.

I called home and told Mom, "I think Honey-Dog got me."

She came over with a band-aid and some Neosporin ... since I was not particularly specific. When she saw my face, she did a good job of not totally flipping out, but she was obviously taken by surprise. She called Dad, made him come over with my little sister to watch the kids and then she took me to the E.R. - my only E.R. experience of childhood. I got one stitch and the doctor was ridiculously nervous about getting it just right since it was on my face. I was not all that concerned. I mean, I didn't want a huge white scar, but whatever.

We got back to the house, I made Mom and Dad go home and I waited for the Wortmans to return. I 'fessed up that the dog had bit me, got my whopping $6 and walked across the street, expecting never to be asked back.

As it turns out, I babysat for them a lot over the years. Michael, in a lot of ways, became like a little brother to me. So much so, that I often felt guilty for the fact that I wasn't as close to the girls. I would try hard to make an effort to do what they wanted some days and I was pretty sure they appreciated that, but it was obvious that Michael and I simply clicked. We had a lot of the same interests, whereas the girls and I didn't have quite as much in common.

It got to the point where Michael begged and begged and begged me to come over and run a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for him and a couple of his buddies. And he was crushed when one of the boys (I think they were about 13 by then) thought he'd "game" the girl. Michael pleaded with the boy to "behave."

You can't "game" a DungeonMaster. I mean, come on. After letting him get away with a little bit of bullshit, I confirmed that he moved through a doorway before the rest of the group. Of course, he was mr. leader-boy.

I rolled a die. Came up the way I'd hoped. "Before the others can go through, you are whisked away into a jungle. The doorway through which you came is nowhere to be seen. And men dressed in green, carrying strange metallic sticks are approaching you."

Yeah. I threw him in the middle of the Viet Nam war. (What? Every doorway in that campaign was a portal to somewhere else rather than a regular doorway. I just tweaked the campaign a little ....)

Then there was the day Michael wanted to race me on my bike. He'd gotten a 10 speed from somewhere and it was far too big for him, but he insisted he could beat me to the end of the block.

I turned around in time to see him go skidding down the street on his chin. I felt horrible. I tried to warn him that the bike was too big for him, that he was going to fall ... but geez. He was trying so hard at first not to cry, but it was a hell of a fall and a lot of road rash. But I think the real pain was he was crushed to have done that in front of me. And in front of his dad. He always tried to be such the macho man for his dad. And don't get me wrong, he was a tough kid ... but he was also sensitive, kind, caring. He wanted to please everybody.

Michael Wortman

When I moved out of the house, I didn't really go back to that house again. There was so much going on in my life at that time, I just wasn't thinking. And, to be honest, Michael was starting high school ... he was hanging out with his friends more and more, as it should be.

I was in my first "real" relationship (whatever that means - in my case it meant 10 years together). I was in my second year of college and had started working full time. I barely had time to breathe, much less check up on the boy across the street.

It was my loss.

I was running a web search for a family member only to discover an article about Michael. Well, not exactly an article. More accurately, his obituary. He was just 37 years old. The obituary says nothing about what happened. I know nothing about his life after I moved.

It's my loss.

Sometimes the amount of information available on the internet just sucks.

Posted by Red Monkey at March 1, 2010 1:04 PM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

Tara R. said:

Such a young man still. Sometimes the Internet does suck.

March 2, 2010 5:17 PM

 

inthefastlane said:

Heartbreaking.
And frustrating.
And it sucks.

March 2, 2010 10:39 PM
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