Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Hero....Zachary!

You have heard so much about my youngest David. In fact...he has his own fb group and I write a blog dedicated to him. I am sure there are times that it seems like he is my only child. In fact...he is not. The others have only been mentioned in passing or referenced when they have really ticked me off. The reality is I claim 5 children. The two oldest while not from my womb.....are definitely from my heart. They were my late husbands from his first marriage. Tiffany is the oldest....she just turned 31 and lives in TN. She is beautiful in every way and has her fathers drive and determination. Sean is next and he is 27. He has two of the most beautiful twin girls you have ever seen (Sadie and Zoey). Sean reminds me so much of his father and I know he is a dad that would make his own dad proud. The next in line is Wesley. Wesley is 25 and a bit of a lost soul. He and Sean took their dads death very hard and both have struggled with life since. While Sean's girls have centered him....Wesley still struggles. Then there is Zachary....followed by David. 15 year old is who this blog is about today.

You know....we all have our hero's in life. We all look up to someone, admire someone or simply want to emulate someone. I am no different. I too have hero' just so happens mine are my two youngest kids. Not that the others aren't awesome...but lets face it, to have been through what David has been through....and continues to goes through.....and still come out smiling and loving life....that is just simply amazing. And as for Zachary......well Zachary is something else.

Now let me preface this before I begin....I am not one of those mothers who thinks their kids are perfect and refuses to believe any wrong doing in them. I am fully aware of most of the less than stellar qualities which my children hold. We have everything from riding their bikes on top of buildings, to trying to beat the heck out of each other when I wasn't looking....and everything in between and some even beyond. My children have probably been in time-out and grounded more than any kids on the planet, so yes....I am fully aware of any short comings they might have. And still....I think each and every one of them is great and has potential to be even greater in this life.

So back to Zachary. Zachary's back story is that he came out of the womb talking, singing and doing flips off furniture. The first three years of his life his feet never quit moving. He mastered flipping out of his crib at about 11 months old and was singing full songs to the top of his lungs at 14 months. He hated wearing clothes and stripped whenever anyone turned their back, idolized his older siblings and never left his daddy's side. He was my snuggle buddy and when I was pregnant with David and not feeling good....Zachary and I spent many wonderful hours snuggling, watching tv, and talking about the future we would have with his new little brother. Zachary though a tough little guy was everyone's favorite (amongst his siblings) because he was really a sweet kid. He was definitely never lacking for attention.

When Zachary was 4 his baby brother David was born. Since David was premature and had so many health problems, David was in the NICU and mommy and daddy had to spend a great deal of time at the hospital. We rotated spending nights and spent every waking hour available just sitting by David's bed side. It was a total upheaval in Zachary's life. The world that had previously centered on centered on this little guy whom the other kids weren't even sure they would ever get to know. Zachary was dragged back and forth between the hospital and spent an awful lot of time with Wesley and away from his parents. Still....he never complained. He never even really acted out. He just took it in stride. And our family being a praying one.....we always told the boys to say special prayers daily for David. One day Zachary came to me when David was beyond critical and he said " don't have to worry about David anymore. He will be fine." The matter of fact way this little 4 year old said this took me back. I said...."he will? How do you know?" Zachary just smiled his beaming smile and said..."cause the Blessed Mama (referring to Mary...the Blessed Mother) and I have been talking and she said he would be fine." Tears came to my eyes because he was so sure that David's health was not in danger and adamant about the fact that he and the Blessed Mama had been conversing. Apparently he had gone to Tim (my husband) with this same information and Tim was not Catholic. I looked at Tim when he told me Zachary's news waiting for Tim to laugh about it or just poo poo it as being Zachary's imagination....but instead he said....."I think he really thinks he talked to her.....and you know what....I am not so sure he didn't." Evidently he did have some kind of insider information for it wasn't long after that....that David started improving.

When we finally got David started getting back to normal again. We rebounded as a family and moved forward. Zachary once again attached himself to his daddy's side and only begrudgingly let him go when he went to work. Since Tim worked second shift, he didn't get home until after 11 p.m., but often I would hear Zachary sneak out of his room when he heard the front door open and then wait for Daddy to offer him a late night snack and some snuggle time on the couch watching tv. They were quite the pair.

On July 2, 2001...all our lives changed forever....but most especially Zachary's. My mother had a drs. appt. early that morning. It was an appt. where we were expecting bad news. A spot had been found on one of her lungs and today was the day we were getting the results. She had asked me to go with her to the dr. so that morning we were trying to decided who was going and who was staying. After much discussion it was decided that I would take Wesley and David with me and Zachary would stay with Tim and they would go get fireworks. After getting the results we were expecting....I called home to Tim. As always he said...."we will get through this together," then he said he and Zachary were getting ready to go buy fireworks. I let him know that I had decided to stay with Mom, run her on some errands and then I would be home. I tried to call the house about an hour later. No answer. Then another hour went by. Still no answer. Finally another and still no answer. I wasn't particularly concerned as it was not unusual for Zachary and Tim to just go out and lose track of time. Finally about 1 p.m. I made it home. Zachary came flying out the door to me saying...."Daddy's dead!" I froze and then suddenly knew that is why no one had been answering the phone. Zachary pointed to the bathroom and as I flew back there.....he was right. Tim had died. He had had a brain aneurysm that he was unaware of. When it burst...he had died instantly. Zachary had been there for it all.

Tim had gotten Zachary in and out of the shower and had told him to get dressed while he (Tim) took a shower. He had told Zachary not to open the front door or answer the phone while he was in there. Zachary said his daddy went into the bathroom and he heard him say "ow!" and then nothing more. Zachary yelled for his daddy but got no he went in. There he found Tim's lifeless body on the floor. Zachary knew immediately his daddy was gone, but he didn't know what to he did what he had been told to do. He didn't open the front door and he didn't answer the phone. He just waited for someone to come rescue him. No five year old should ever have to live through that hell. My heart still breaks writing this and thinking back to that day and how scared and alone Zachary must have felt.

When the coroner finally arrived and was filled in on the situation.....he checked Tim out and then he took Zachary aside. He explained to Zachary that even if Tim had been in a hospital.....he would have died. He died instantly when the aneurysm burst and there simply would have been no way to save him. Apparently the coroner wanted as badly as I did to make this nightmare of a day easier for Zachary to understand. How though do you explain the unexplainable to a 5 year old? The only question Zachary ever asked me was...."why was I there when it happened?" It broke my heart. I finally came up with the explanation that God did not want Daddy to be alone so even though Daddy had 5 kids......Zachary was the one He chose to spend Daddy's last hours with him. For whatever reason.....this seemed to make the situation a little more okay for Zachary and often through the years he has told me that looking back....he wouldn't have traded those last hours alone with his dad for anything. WOW!

Since that time....Zachary has still tried to process the events of that day. He has tried to understand why he had to grow up without the man he idolized being in his life. He has even used his loss and his grief to help other kids to get beyond similar situations. He always amazes me.

When Zachary got to be about 8.....he found out that from his dad he had inherited a gift. The gift of a beautiful singing voice. He also had inherited his fathers gift of gab, the confidence to get up and sing in front of anyone, and a certain ability to charm most adults. He had become an old soul whose life experience at 5 had somehow caused him to lose the innocence of childhood. While he had always conversed easier with those older than himself......his dad's death had widened that divide between himself and kids his own age. So unknowingly this had all set him up to be the kid most likely to be teased. Kids in his class and teachers would ask him to get up and sing (or sometimes no one had to ask....he would just do it).....and he always got cheered on by all involved....until the teacher wasn't present. Then the teasing and taunting began. Being confused about the signals he was first he thought the teasing was just good natured. In time though.....he realized that these kids were serious and the abuse began to take it's toll on how he felt about himself and school. Luckily though.....he never let it affect his love for music or his ability to stand up at any time.....anywhere and belt out a song.

In middle school his heart and his life took a true beating. The teasing and taunting he had been subjected to over the years......with the addition of teenage hormones became full on bullying. Everyday he would come home devastated that kids could be so cruel. Then they started to bring his dad's death into it. One kid even insinuated that Zachary had killed his dad/and another that he had just left him there to die. It was more than anyone....let alone an 11 year old should have to handle. The abuse and bullying were taking their toll emotionally and the emotional was quickly becoming the physical with Zachary spiking temps and developing gastro-intestinal issues. After numerous trips to the school trying to get the bullying stopped and the teachers and staff saying....."well we never see it happening," and then Zachary having to serve detention after he defended himself against a kid trying to beat on him (needless to say Zachary was the one who got caught the other kid got in no trouble), I decided it was time to take another route. Zachary had all but quit doing his school work and most of the time he just sat miserably in his room. I was NOT going to allow this to happen. At Christmas break of his 7th grade year I pulled him out of school and put him into Eschool where he did all of his classes on line at home and attended classes at the "base" once every three weeks. Out of the bullying situation.....Zachary started to become himself again. His grades began to improve as did his attitude and health. My Zachary was back.. His 8th grade year after hearing horror stories from other kids about the bullying that was still being allowed at the middle school.....Zachary opted for another year of Eschool. However.....I told him he was going back to "real" school is freshman year.

Although inwardly terrified.....Zachary boldly walked through those high school doors his first day of school. It took him less than a week to realize that this really was a different situation. The things he was teased about and bullied for in middle school suddenly became assets in high school. He immediately found kids with similar likes (theater and music) and he was welcomed into various social circles with open arms. Gone were the days of "why doesn't anybody like me?" He was starting to see himself through others eyes and the reflection staring back was a good one.

This year Zachary has been in his first play.....a musical Fiddler on the Roof. He has sang a solo in the Christmas music program and he is preparing to try out for his second play Night of the Living Dead, and trying out for another solo in the spring music program. While he has still struggled with his grades.... as theater and music are much more fun than French and Algebra.....he has brought his grades up over time and is starting to come into his own academically.

The other day Zachary came to me with an idea he had. was a proposal that he had typed up for an event that he wanted me to look over and check for grammatical errors. I am not sure whether the idea for the proposal came from a class project or just an idea he had, but while reading it.....I cried. Here is his proposal:

“I always knew it was okay to be different, I just didn't know it was okay to show it.”


My name is Zach Elam, I am a 15 year old Freshman at Mulvane High School. I am a singer, actor, writer, voice-over actor, and someone who just enjoys being goofy. However, the talent for acting and BEING a goof comes with a price.

I, like many of my friends, am the type of person who likes to go out on a limb and do weird things, such as wearing a dress for “Switch Day” at the high school's Spirit Week. However, even though I was having fun with it, and my friends were too...there were people laughing at me, calling me names, and insinuating that I WAS in fact the girl I was dressed to be on Switch Day.

Many kids in our school have talents, and things that make them different. Is there something wrong with this? Well, you would think there was, as they are constantly tortured for being different. So what if a guy likes to get up and do a cover of a Carrie Underwood song, or a theater girl “likes dressing like a guy too much”? Should we be put down for doing the things that make us happy and feel good inside?

The answer is no. In fact, we should be celebrating it! And everyone, no matter who they are, has something that makes them special. From their music, to their art, to their astounding yo-yo skills and the list go on and on.


I propose a way to do just that; CELEBRATE! I propose the “Firework Festival” named after the hit pop song “Firework” by Katy Perry which talks about how it is more than okay to be different and show your worth to the world as an individual. The festival would take place on July 4th in the Main Street park or some other equally accessible venue in Mulvane and would be open to anyone who wishes to come and have some fun. It would consist of live stage performances by local solo musicians, bands, actors (thespians) and so on (hopefully many coming from both Mulvane Middle and High Schools). We would also like to open it up for booths with local artists and craftsmen to show and sell their wares. Also we would like to open it for food vendors too (this could be a money maker for the Klassy Kats, theater club, and other clubs at both the middle and high schools).

It is my hope that we could get the Mulvane High School thespians to put on a “anti-bullying” skit to bring about awareness throughout the town that the very people we are celebrating are the same people who get picked on relentlessly for being different.


Let's face it, people ARE aware that there are forms of bullying all around them. Physical, verbal, emotional, name it. It's a craze that seems to be sweeping the nation, but at the same time, it needs to be brought to an end. And this, though it may not stop bullying completely, is surely a positive step towards the solution. This would be a great way for parents, teachers, and the whole town to get involved in the lives of today's youth and see who they really are...and become aware of the struggles they have to face. Plus it is an awesome way for the people of Mulvane to find out just how talented this town really is. But don't think this is just for us teenagers! It's for anyone and everyone who wants to show just how special they are, whether they're 15 or 85.


As stated before, it would take place on the 4th of July and be open to anyone who wants to all.

• We would have people who come and barbeque and vendors for those who prefer to purchase food on sight.
• A sign up sheet for stage acts would be posted at various locations such as the high school, the bank, the newspaper office, etc. in advance of the event so that we can get an organized idea of who all will be performing, along with another sign up for people who wish to have a booth.
• All band equipment and booth equipment will be provided by the performers and will be their responsibility throughout the event.
• The playground equipment will be open to kids who want to play during the day.
• The festival would ideally be open from 11 a.m. To 5 p.m.
• It will be made very clear that no fireworks will be allowed to be shot off during the festival to ensure the safety of both people and property.
• Donations will be accepted.


I hope this idea will be taken into careful consideration as it is very important to me, because I have had to lived through being picked on and tortured for singing, acting, and doing all the things I loved...and as I said before, this would be a very positive step in the direction of ending the bullying around our town. This festival will be a reminder that it is okay to be different, no matter what anyone else says…because after all….each of us is different in our own special way.

Firework Festival – Dare To Be Different

-Zach Elam

All I could say was WOW! He has taken this to teachers and the principal at the high school and they all love it. Of course....what is not to love? He has made it his mission that no other kids should have to suffer due to bullying because they might be different. After all.....we are ALL different and our differences should be celebrated, not laughed at, made fun of, or get us beaten up.

So aside from being a wonderful son and a tremendous big brother....I think you might now understand why Zachary is hero!


LisaAnne said...

I love this post! Zachary is indeed the greatest kid! You are a lucky momma.

littlemdl said...

Oh Lisa, I knew a long time ago that Zach was such a great kid! He was always so sweet when I would see him at Dr Palacio's office. He obviously has grown into being such a wonderful teen as well. You have every right to be so proud!