This is the first time that the anniversary of Wes, Andy, and Ryan’s deaths has “lined up” with the lunar calendar, how Easter is determined. This is my post to honor Wes and Andy this week. It is a special and wonderful memory, one that I will cling to with every passing day of my life.
Our last family vacation was Sunday, March 24 through Tuesday, March 26. It was the boys’ spring break. We had three short days to get away, to have fun, to be together. We were a typical, busy family. Blaine was driving to Charlotte to work at least three days a week, which meant that he was getting home late and tired. Wes was busy with chemistry study group and school in general, his jeep, a part-time job, his friends, and just being a teenage boy, almost 17. I was taking Andy to soccer practice or to the driving range or to the golf course. Our 14 ½ year old was designing golf courses with colored pencils and spending a lot of time talking on the phone to his girlfriend, Mary Katherine. At one point in time in February of that last year, our family didn’t have dinner together for nine days in a row. That was not acceptable to me! So we made plans to go to Williamsburg, VA for a little family time. Busch Gardens was open, the weather looked promising, and we were ready!
We arrived in Williamsburg on Sunday afternoon, shopped a while at the outlet mall, then checked in to our hotel. Everyone seemed particularly relaxed. I don’t even recall any squabbles between Wes and Andy. The next morning we ate a continental breakfast in our hotel and departed for Busch Gardens.
Upon arrival at the theme park, we looked over the map, planning our day of fun. Wes was ready to ride the roller coasters; the other activities could wait. We walked around a little, but it wasn’t long before Wes and I were on “The Big, Bad Wolf.” This was the only roller coaster I had ridden at Busch Gardens—years earlier we had gone and Wes had convinced me to ride it with him. So I didn’t hesitate this time. Blaine and Andy were a tad more reticent. But after a little prodding, they too succumbed to the roller coasters—The Loch Ness Monster, Alpen Geist, all of them…well…except for one—Apollo’s Chariot. This was Busch Gardens’ newest and most anxiety-producing roller coaster. This “monster” was not enticing to Blaine, Andy or me! We were not interested in going 73 mph down a 70 degree, 210-foot drop. Wes was relentless. That should have been his middle name.
Finally, late that Monday afternoon, after tolerating Wes’s nagging off and on for hours, I abruptly said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I did (with my eyes closed) and I didn’t regret it—after my stomach settled back in its proper place, an hour or so later. That night, after we went to bed, I told Blaine why I did it. I told him that I wanted Wes to be able to tell his teenage son or daughter that his 44-year-old mom had ridden one of the scariest roller coasters in the country with him when he was 16. I told him that I didn’t want to regret not having experienced an opportunity to “play” with him. He was growing up and there wouldn’t be many more opportunities to do that. The next morning we went back for another half-day of adventure. Blaine and I rode it with him this time; Andy said his limit was a 190-foot drop. I kept my eyes open the whole time—it was wonderful.
The next roller coaster ride I took was the one called Grief—the scariest, most anxiety-producing one anyone can ride. No mother should ever have to ride that one. And I’m still on it.