Wyatt Christian has few memories of his father, who was killed six years ago in the line of duty while working as a Georgia cop.
But the little boy always celebrates his birthday by surrounding himself with his dad’s things. His mother hires a photographer to capture those moments, and to superimpose an image of his departed dad into the frame.
Monday is his eighth birthday.
“He’s a good boy and he loves his daddy,” says his mom, Melissa, who speaks to her son and her daughter every day about Elmer Basco “Buddy” Christian.
He was shot to death in his patrol car while responding to a call of an officer down.
Wyatt was only 2 when his father was killed.
Melissa found no words to explain such an awful thing. “He was so little, I couldn’t even tell him what happened. He couldn’t understand. He had to understand along the way.”
It was a little easier for her daughter, who was 5 at the time. She understood the concept of heaven, and pictured her dad there with the family dog, Ginger, that had died two years before.
Wyatt, however, was having a rough time of it. Every time the phone rang, “he thought it was his daddy,” Melissa said. “And he would get so angry, saying ‘Let me talk to him! Let me talk to him!’’’
It was the same every time a tractor or a motorcycle went past their house. “He would think his daddy was coming home,” Melissa said.
With the passage of time, it began to sink in that his father wasn’t coming home. Last year, the man who shot his dad was convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
“The trial brought up all new questions,” the mother said. “He didn’t understand why somebody would choose to take someone else’s life.” And that was something Melissa could not explain to her son.
“Buddy loved to help people. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only thing that could have saved him was not to be in that place,” she said.
In this year’s birthday photo shoot, Wyatt is seen holding his father’s badge, wearing his hat, and standing in his boots.
“We talk about him all the time,” Melissa said of her late husband.
Wyatt “has the same mannerisms. He’ll make a smile or a smirk that looks just like his dad,” his mother said. “He knows what a great guy (Buddy) was.”