>> Thursday, April 8, 2010
She had called us to the front porch, needed to talk to us, needed to tell us something. Something. She drew a deep breath blew it out, then another. A chill ran down my back, was it the October air or something?
I stood…waited… fidgeted in my boots and scratched at an old scab on my arm, watching with intent as it bled. Not wanting to look at my mom…weak…older.
“What Mom!” My brother shouts impatient, wanting to get back to his Big-wheel and our leaf pile. He’s stomping up and down the paint chipped porch steps that my mom sat on. Mom sat there…just sat there, a blue bandana holding back her blond curly hair…the same golden hair that sat atop my brother Shawn’s head.
The distraction seems to give her the strength, the resolve to speak. Again she looks at me, standing in front of her, in my grubby jeans and floral sweat shirt.
“Last night your Aunt Sandy was in an accident,” she says. This time I don’t look away…can’t, but mom seems to be looking though me at some point behind me. To steel herself? Holding on?
My 7 year old brain sees Sandy falling down the dark basement stairs or flying over the handle bars of a bike, visions taken from my own fears. I see Sandy in the hospital with her arm in a cast…I’m thinking of what I will write on her cast, “You’re my favorite aunt, get well soon, I love you.”
Mom’s head has drops back to her chest…older…holding on… deep breath.
“A very bad car accident, Sandy was hurt very bad and didn’t make it…she’s gone,” her voice cracks on the word gone.
“Gone where?” Shawn asks, picking green paint chips off the step. “To the doctors?”
“No honey,” Mom says putting her arm around him, releasing a mangled tissue that drops to her feet. “She has gone to heaven, Sandy was in the back seat when the car hit a tree and she died.”
“Sandy died? What’s that mom?” Shawn asked kicking at the pumpkin and turning to mom.
I can’t do this anymore; I can’t look at mom red eyed and weak. My mind is flashing shots of Sandy’s bright smiling face, her shiny, dark, all-the-way-down-her-back hair. Hear her voice calling to me, “Come give me a kiss lue-la-bell!”
My chest tightens, my eyes start to sting…my brain freezes on an image of Sandy again in hospital bed, no longer in a cast but coved head to toe in a white sheet. I shake off the image balling my hands into fists.
“You don’t know what dead is!” I scream down at my clueless freckled face brother. “God you are so dumb! Every. One. Knows. What DEAD IS!”
“Michelle!” My mother scolds “don’t be mean, he just doesn’t understand, come sit down.”
I land face first into my pillow. I should be crying, but I am not, I should be crying, but I can’t. I just see her face…always smiling, always…always happy to see me. I see the brown paper bag she hands me at my last birthday, a rumpled brown paper bag…her bigger then life smile…a brown paper bag with my birthday gift inside. An etch-a-sketch. I don’t remember any other gifts from my 7th birthday, but I’ll never forget that brown paper bag…that etch-a-sketch…and that smile.
I was too young they said. Too young for Sandy’s funeral service…too young to say goodbye.
“Bunny, you’re my favorite Auntie now,” I informed my Aunt Bunny shortly after that day…the day I was too young for. “But when you die… Auntie Jerri will be my favorite Aunt.”
“Oh, great,” she laughs tossing her cigarette butt into the grass and rubbing her smoky hand in my hair. “Lucky me.”
I guess I just didn’t understand either.