I wandered slowly into the back parlor, where I remembered massive Christmas trees of my youth. A room full of antique furnishings, with 11’ ceilings, and the tree always bent over just a little at the top because Ed always went for the biggest damn tree he could move. And at 6’3”, 230 lbs. he could move a lot of tree.
I saw Theresa first. Ed’s oldest daughter, now married with two kids. Haunted eyes, trembling jaw trying to hold fast, but her hands wee shaking with so many barely suppressed emotions. T had moved pretty quickly from shock and loss straight into anger, and was trying to hang onto that anger to keep her together. It wasn’t really working, but nobody was gonna tell her that today.
Aunt Hazel, sitting on my grandfather’s antique sofa, stood up to hug me when I walked up. “Your Uncle Ed’s gone, baby. Uncle Ed’s gone.”
There were no words. That’s what I said to Aunt Hazel as we hugged “I don’t have any words. There’s nothing I can say or do.”
“I know honey, nobody can do for me what I want. All I want is for somebody to bring him back to me and can’t nobody do that.”
And I sat down beside my cousin, the kid I grew up with like he was my little brother, and looked in the eyes of a suddenly old man. And I knew that same hollow, shell-shocked look he was wearing was mirrored on my own face.
I don’t remember much else from Saturday afternoon until I lost it in the parlor when my dad came in to give Aunt Hazel a goodbye hug. My dad is the rock, the gnarled sunbeaten taciturn man who at 77 still carries a chainsaw every day and drives a truck with 80,000 lbs. of timber behind his head. But when he hugged his sister, I saw his shoulders shake with pain, and I had to leave the room. I can handle my pain, I can understand the pain my cousins and aunt were feeling, but seeing my dad crack broke me right in two.
I wandered the back yard, trying to find someplace a little private to quietly lose my shit for a minute, but there were too many people around. The family had begun to gather in earnest, and the call had gone out to the community, so the caring neighbors started to arrive about with food, drinks, paper plates, whatever you could imagine to sustain the body while the soul tries to begin the process of healing. By , less than 5 hours after my uncle’s death, there were already 6 2-liter sodas, 2 coolers full of ice, a deli tray and 2 buckets of fried chicken. I began to fear for the structural integrity of the countertops, and frankly the foundation of the house. Because I knew this was just the prelude, that Sunday would bring the casseroles.
Suzy and I decided to stay home on Sunday, rather than drive down and put ourselves through that. So I sat here, at this computer, playing Neverwinter Nights and continuing to feel like I’d been hit in the chest with a hammer. I read the comments and emails, and they all meant so much to me. My invisible internet friends were a real source of strength for me this week, and it means more to me than I can express. There’s more to say, but everything is still kinda jumbled up right now. I expect it will come trickling out here over the next week or so.
On other fronts – go visit Pauly and help us all Save BG! According to brother Big Junk, he’s doing pretty well, but throw a brother a bone or 20 and help cover the outrageous medical bills he’s gonna be stuck with. Even with insurance, it’s still a recurring junk-kick.
And I’m very honored to have been included in the latest issue of Truckin’ Pauly’s literary blogzine. Check it out, I’m in there with several of your favorite bloggers and mine.
Again, thanks to everybody who commented or emailed, or just sent me good mojo. It means a lot.