I was walking down the hill from the school bus to our house down on the dead end road by the swamp he called a lake. It was a warm day for April, and sunny. It was a Monday.
Frank Bastek, my sisters boyfriend at the time, was 18 years old and he was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. I knew something was up because he was just Linda’s boyfriend we didn’t really have anything much to do with each other. I wanted to learn to drive his Chevy Impala convertible, but he wouldn’t let me because I was only eight. I thought it was a big block 409, then I found out it was only a six-cylinder so I didn’t want to drive it anyway.
We had a basketball net nailed to a big maple tree, by the gravel and mud driveway and Frank wanted to shoot hoops with me. That’s when I had a vibe that something was very wrong.
Dougie Hulseapple came down from his house on the top of the hill, through the path we’d beaten to each other’s back yards. He walked up to me and said that my father was very sick and in the hospital, with an attitude I hope Dougie took with him to his grave of, “So what are you going to do about it?” Dougie wanted to know what everyone was going to do about everything all the time.
I got pissed and said, “This is what I’m going to do about it!” My canned response to his daily question and I took a swing and we ended up rolling around in the grass. It was around 3:30pm and about the time of day we always had our fight, unless it was a slow day in school or on the bus, and we’d have our fight there instead. School fights sucked. Teachers were always breaking us up before we got going.
I dusted the fight-dirt off my shirt and pants and was headed up to Kippy Currier’s house to play with trucks in his sandbox when I heard Ma yelling for me out the backdoor. I walked back and into the kitchen and Uncle Rick and Uncle Art and Uncle Ben and Uncle Jeff were there and Ma said he was dead. I think that was the first time I said fuck and I told her she was fucking lying.
Ma just repeated he was dead.
I ran into my room through a crowd of people in the front of the house and slammed the door.
Next thing I remember cousin Bobby’s dad, my Uncle Rick, was sitting there on the bed next to me. We didn’t say much. Looking back through the years now I realize he was just a kid himself, maybe twenty five or thirty or so. He was broken too. His big brother was dead.
Then Bobby came in and Uncle Rick left us alone.
We sat on my bed with the door shut and I am pretty sure I started to cry then. Bobby said it was ok, because the door was closed so nobody would see.
The last thing I remember was my dad’s mom’s shattered eyes and the stench of a room full of flowers and wearing a suit. Then they closed the lid on the box and that was the end of all that.
So, yeah, daughter, I remember it still. Fifty-seven years later.