There are some things you never think you’ll have to say. And then there are things you say so often you’re surprised when someone hasn’t heard them.
When I was 9 years old, in fourth grade, I got the flu on a Sunday morning. So I stayed home from church. Monday I felt better but my parents kept me home to make sure I was ok. Tuesday I relapsed and was sick all morning but better in the afternoon. When my brother got home from school, (he was a high school junior) I had been cooped up in the house so long, I wanted to play. He suggested Legos. I refused. I wanted Barbies. We got in a fight and he told me that Mari, his girlfriend in Montana, played Legos, and that was why she was so smart. That, of course, infuriated me, so I yelled that I hated him and went back to my room.
After supper I was so bored and stir-crazy, I was willing to apologize, and even to play Legos. So I went to my brother’s room downstairs. The door was locked. I told him I was sorry through the door and that, if he still wanted, I would play Legos. No reply. So I went upstairs and told my dad. He told me to tell Chad that “he said” to open the door.
So I went back upstairs and told him that. He told me to tell Chad that if he didn’t open the door, he would have to do dishes, the most dreaded chore in our house. I went back down.
At that point, I had had enough. I didn’t want to tell anyone, but I still wasn’t feeling 100% well and all the running up and down the stairs was making me feel sick again. So I sat on the couch and read the comics from the Sunday newspaper. If Chad didn’t want to play that badly, then he wouldn’t be any fun to play with anyway.
The next morning, I still wasn’t feeling very well, but I had decided I WAS GOING to school. I got up at my normal time, got dressed and wandered out to the kitchen to eat the breakfast my father had prepared for me ahead of time. As I was eating my soggy Cocoa Pebbles, my father remarked that Chad hadn’t come up from his room yet. Normally he beat me to the kitchen table. He was always upstairs by 7:15 at the latest.
So my dad went downstairs to make sure Chad was up. His door was still locked. He usually slept with the door closed, but not locked. My dad yelled up at my mom to get the spare key to Chad’s room. My mom got the key, I handed it to my dad when he came up and he told me I should go wash my hands, I don’t know why. So I went to wash my hands and heard my dad yell up at my mom to call an ambulance.
After washing my hands, I went to the stack of folded laundry in the living room, looking for a towel. As I was leaving the living room my mom was entering and I remember dancing around in a Chip and Dale style dance, arms straight out, half hugging, no touching except the hands on each others’ shoulders. Then she sent me to my room and told me Ken and Dee, the neighbors down the road, were gonna come get me for a while.
I sat in my room, waiting. I didn’t know what was going on; I just sort of felt empty inside. I sat on the floor next to my bed and tried to play paper dolls, but I didn’t have any interest in them.
Ken and Dee arrived in what probably was record time, and I left before the ambulance came. I spent the day at Ken and Dee’s doing various things, making paper crafts, playing with dolls, the usual. No one told me anything until around 3pm. Ken came home, from the hospital, I presume, and told me that Chad had gone to heaven. I didn’t really listen. I thought he must have been confused or something. I don’t know. I just went on going what I was doing. I stayed until supper time. My parents’ actually got home and came to get my while I was having supper with Ken and Dee. All the adults decided that Ken could just bring me home after I had eaten.
When I got home, my mother was looking in the fridge. I asked her how Chad was. She said he was much better. Not getting the answer I was looking for, I found my father in the dark, looking out the picture window in the living room. I asked him how Chad was. He looked down at me and asked hadn’t Ken said anything to me? Chad died. I didn’t know what to do. Ken had to be wrong. Where was my big brother? I don’t remember anything else from that night except that there were more presents under the Christmas tree, without tags and I asked who they were for and my parents said me; who else could they be for?