Every May 1st, Don Hughes eats a Strawberry Pop Tart, an apple that is both peeled and sliced beforehand, and then washes it all down with an orange soda. Sometimes he has these things at breakfast, other times at lunch, and then every once in awhile for supper. The time of day doesn’t matter, what matters is that he has this meal on May 1st, his son’s birthday.
Pop Tarts, sliced apples and orange soda were Adam’s favourite things to eat when he was four. The apples were okay with Don and his wife, but they tried not to let Adam consume too much of the other two things.
“We need to teach him to eat healthy things so he’ll grow up big and strong,” his wife used to say. “Too much sugar isn’t good for him,” she’d then say as if Pop Tarts and soda were the biggest threats to their son’s health.
It was supposed to be a day of fun for the family, the day Adam was killed. Don had got the three of them tickets to see their favourite baseball team take on their perennial rivals. It was Adam’s first real baseball game, and Don managed to get seats along the first base line. The perfect spot for a foul ball flying one hundred miles per hour to land and hit someone with the attention span of a pre-schooler.
It’s been over thirty years since that day, but the pain of his son’s loss feels just as raw today as it did when the emergency room doctor told him that there wasn’t anyhing he could do to save Adam. Since then, Don has made note of what should have been milestones in Adam’s life.
“He’d be starting kindergarten today,” he said the September Adam would have been five. “He’d be going in to high school now.” “He’d be learning to drive this year.” “He’d be heading off to college this month.” “He’d be graduating and starting a career of his own.”
He also often wonders how his son would have turned out. Would his blonde hair have darkened like his own? Would he have a mind for science or would he have shared his mother’s love for the arts? Would they have had the typical father-son fights that kids and their parents often do? Would he have had a family of his own by now?
There is no way to answer those questions because there is no Adam. All Don has to hold on to are a few memories from his son’s brief time here on earth, including his favourite meal.