TAMPA — Ed Weise kept his eyes cast downward Friday as he talked outside Tampa General Hospital about his 9-year-old son's recovery from the explosion of a hollowed-out grenade they had stuffed with gunpowder.
He didn't make any excuses.
"I should have thrown it away," the 42-year-old Lakeland man said. "It's terrible, but every day he gets a little better."
On Feb. 18, while Weise was working in St. Petersburg installing cable, his son, Edward "Eddie" George Weise III, found the hollowed-out WWII-style pineapple grenade in their Lakeland living room. Several months earlier, father and son had tried to set it off on Independence Day.
"We put a couple of bottle rockets — the black powder from inside them — in the thing and stuck in a really long fuse," Weise said. "We were almost a block away when we lit it, which is why I don't understand why he would try to set that thing off in the kitchen."
Eddie's mother, Ann Marie Weise, told the Ledger in Lakeland that she'd bought the grenade for $1 at an auction. She thought it would make an interesting paperweight.
When the father and son didn't get the kaboom they were looking for — Ed Weise said he expected it to look like fireworks — the father took the grenade back into the house and put it into a flower pot on top of a living-room entertainment center. It was nearly 6 feet off the ground, he said.
"You can't stop a 9-year-old boy from getting something, though," said Weise, who said he takes responsibility for the explosion that shattered his son's palette, jaw, nose and orbital bones, and blew the fingers off his left hand.
Ed Weise understands that criminal charges could be on the way.
"It's obviously still an open investigation," said Donna Wood, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff's Office. "We do expect charges, but at this time, none have been levied."
Both of the parents are thankful no charges have been filed yet.
"I get to be with him now," Ed Weise said. "I just can't leave him now."
"I think it would set [Eddie] too far back if he woke up and his daddy wasn't there,'' Ann Marie Weise said. "They are really close."
Ann Marie Weise says she hasn't left the hospital since her son came out of his 28-hour surgery the night he arrived. She sleeps from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. at the Ronald McDonald House while Ed Weise stays with Eddie. The two alternate dinners and sometimes sleep in his room.
They've marveled at his progress.
"He walked to the nurse's station the other day," Ann Marie Weise said. "And even though his jaw is wired shut he is breathing on his own and talking."
He's even a little sullen again, his mother said. He once told her through clenched jaws to "Get out and take the nurses with you."
Classmates at Churchwell Elementary wrote Eddie letters and made him get well cards and the messages make him happy, his mother said.
Messages such as "I hope you feel better. Don't be mean to me" and "Eddie, We love you and yes, you can have my lunch money" cause the second-grader to occasionally crack a smile.
Eddie's girlfriend, Sarah Oakley, gets the most smiles, Ann Marie Weise said. The second-grader has sent him a stuffed bunny, cards and balloons and even offered a picture of herself to brighten the room.
"She's told me they're getting married," the mother laughed. "She's just the cutest little kid."
But Eddie has a long road ahead of him before the nuptials. He's listed in serious condition and could be transferred to the pediatric wing in the next two weeks, Ed Weise said.
"That will be more fun for him, I think, than having nurses coming in every few minutes to check on him," he said.
Eddie doesn't yet understand that his left arm isn't moving because doctors were able to reattach only his thumb, pinky and ring fingers and had to sew his hand into the fat of his stomach to prevent infection.
"I can't even look at it," Ed Weise said while choking back a sob. "The nurses don't want to have to pick me up off the floor."
His mother said her son thinks it's broken and they haven't fully explained what happened to him yet.
"We're just focused on him getting better," she said. "When I asked if he knew why he was here right after he explosion, he said 'firecracker,' so he remembers at least that."
And as he comes to terms with his injuries, Churchwell Elementary has decided "to take pity on our stupidity," according to Ann Marie Weise. The school is hosting an event Saturday to raise money for the family.
"We want to be there," she said. "But we can't leave him. We had to have someone come today to stay with him just so we could talk to you."
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.