Dad’s memories still too hurtful
BERLIN—There are some events that people rarely witness as they occur: a flower bursting into full bloom, and a strong man succumbing to profound grief.
It was difficult to read the emotions of Quentin Dennis, who is physically imposing, when he and his wife Rebecca agreed on Dec. 27, 2013, to speak about the loss they experienced with the death of Quentin’s only son Tymeir on Nov. 8.
Tymeir and his brother Tyheim Bowen were struck by an unmarked Maryland State Police car while they were speaking with their mother Tynise Bowen in the median area at U.S. Route 113 and Bay Street. Tyheim, who was about to turn 18 years old, eventually lost his right leg and suffered a crushed pelvis as a result of his injuries, but 16 year-old Tymeir was thrown a considerable distance by the impact of the crash and subsequently died from his injuries.
Quentin Dennis said he remembered receiving a telephone call around 8:05 p.m., almost immediately after the accident had occurred. He remembers heading to Atlantic General Hospital, where Tymeir had been taken. “I got a chance to see Tymeir, but the whole thing was so unreal,” he said.
Tymeir had already died; to Dennis he looked like he was asleep. “But they were telling me he was not here anymore,” he said. Dennis recalled spotting and meeting with his former wife Tynise Bowen in the waiting room. His mind was filled with questions, but as Bowen contended in an earlier interview, very few answers were forthcoming. “At this time, I just really want to know what happen,” he said in a voice that was steady, but suddenly dropped to barely audible.
Dennis, a Worcester County correctional officer, said he had contacted the Maryland State Police, seeking a preliminary accident report. “I felt like some were helpful,” he said, noting that some of the officials he spoke with tried to accommodate his inquiries for further information, “and some were not,” he said of other officials he said, “kind of brushed me off.”
When a child dies, a community customarily embraces the mother, especially if she is a single mom, and rightly so. But in Tymeir’s case, Dennis was no absentee dad; he had been the custodial parent since Tymeir was 3 years-old. During those years, Dennis said he had been trying to instill in Tymeir an ethic to work hard, be respectful to others and to be an overall good person. It was paying off apparently; Tymeir made the honor roll in the second semester of 10th grade at Stephen Decatur High School and was well regarded by his peers.
The situation Dennis described seemed to indicate that he had not been brought into the circle of community support and information network that had been afforded to Tymeir’s mom.
That was where Dennis’ wife Rebecca came. She sat quietly, watching him closely as he struggled to have his say. A few times—when he had gone silent in thought—she finished a sentence or added an explanation or detail. Talking about Tymeir seemed like something Dennis had felt compelled to do, as though it was a painful oration he needed to get off his chest to reach some degree of closure.
Unlike with Bowen, no one had reached out to Dennis—possibly presuming he had not been an active participant in Tymeir’s life. But he had been, all along. Prior to marrying Johnson, Dennis and his son stayed with his mother—until Tymeir was eight. The tri-generational living arrangement was meant to give Tymeir a stable family environment and, Dennis admitted, he was also a demanding father. “I would know when he wasn’t giving a project his full potential,” Dennis said. To further guard against that occurring, he gave Tymeir’s teachers his cell phone number, he said.
Tymeir was a little shy with new people until he got to know them, Dennis said, “Then he could open up.” The teen had an abundance of energy and was prone to fits of giggling, he said. The description seemed to prompt a memory that brought a brief smile to Dennis’ face. Then it vanishes again beneath a veil of stoicism.
Asked whether there was a particular memory that stood out from his life with Tymeir, Dennis started with one and added several to the list. There was the summer of when father and son worked together as cooks at the Atlantic Stand in Ocean City, spending their workdays bonding with conversations about sports, life and growing up. There were the sports events they attended with Tyheim: watching Sunday games at the Green Turtle, taking road trips to Washington to take in the occasional professional basketball game, or to museums and family vacations with Rebecca and his two stepsisters. Rebecca, who had known Tymeir since he was six, said Tymeir called her by her middle name, Rene’, never “stepmom.”
As the son Rebecca said she had always wanted, Tymeir inherently rounded out the Dennis’ blended family. She said her role now was to help Dennis cope with his loss. “I know Tymeir was not my biological son,” she said. “But I try to put myself in my husband’s shoes. I don’t know how it would be if it had been one of my girls,” she said, “My husband has been really, really strong.”
Rebecca said her oldest daughter, who was roughly the same age as Tymeir, took his death exceptionally hard, she said. The tragedy left her younger daughter asking why God would take Tymeir, “out of all the other kids he could have taken,” she said. The daughter of a pastor, Rebecca responded with the answer, “It was God’s will.”
In December, the family decided not to cancel a pre-planned family trip made prior to the accident: a cruise to the Bahamas that Tymeir had been looking forward to, which became a de facto family wake to celebrate the happier times and antics with their late son and brother.
Dennis said he was also concerned about Tyheim’s well being and that he hoped everything works out for him. He said although Tymeir and Tyheim, who is not Dennis’ son, grew up in separate homes as they grew older and more independently mobile they began doing things together as brothers on their own.
That was the case on Nov. 8 when they had spent the afternoon playing video games before setting out to visit a friend in the Town of Berlin. Dennis said a pedestrian crosswalk and added safety measures were long overdue in the highly-populated area where the accident occurred. “There are a lot of kids going across there and it needs to be taken care of before something else happens,” he said.
Like Bowen, Dennis expressed deep gratitude to Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing. “That night he really helped out a lot,” he said. He credited Downing with keeping “a lot of things under control,” adding, “I really appreciated that.”
In the midst of his grief Dennis is also reflective of the 21 year-old trooper who was involved in the accident. A member of law enforcement himself, “I know the officer has a lot going on,” Dennis said. He went silent, as he seemed to be trying to anticipate what the young man might be experiencing. Nevertheless, he said, “I don’t know what I would say to him.”
Dennis also seemed touched that Tymeir’s classmates at Worcester Technical High School had presented him with a memory book they created in Tymeir’s honor, in part to help them cope with his loss. The students also created a memorial and planted a tree in his memory.
Dennis said he too would like to find some way to commemorate the all too brief life of his only son. He said he is considering a scholarship fund in Tymeir’s name and invited anyone who could help him with that goal to contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is part two of a series.