Many times when I call Spencer to check on him, he'll say, "I'm in Casey's garage." Casey is a boy his age, tall and blonde. He lives across the street from the high school. He's always polite, and the boys like the autonomy of hanging out in his garage. Casey has a younger sister, Josie, who is Tucker's age. Josie and friends frequently show up at our house, sometimes clutching kittens they've found and hope to persuade their parents they should adopt. The girls are always polite, leaving their shoes beside the front door and calling cheery goodbyes when they exit.
Last week, the older brother of Casey and Josie died at his own hand.
My boys didn't know the brother, but I've urged them to be there for their friends. I feel strongly about this, because I think of the one visit my friends paid after my sister Tammy died in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Northern Kentucky. I was 14 and the house was filled with relatives who spoke in hushed tones and didn't smile.
My cousin Kim spent the night and we slept in my sister's bed together. In the morning, we were talking and laughing about something. I remember that my mom opened the doors and said lightly, "What are you girls giggling about?" She didn't say it in an accusatory tone, but I felt guilty. Guilty that I was there and my sister wasn't. Guilty that I had been talking and laughing when Tammy had died.
Tucker saw Josie last night and he said he felt sure she didn't want to go to her brother's memorial service. She just wants to be finished with it, he explained.
And Josie, 15, is just one year older than I was when my sister died. I remember feeling that way too.
I wanted all of the visitation and notification and funeral stuff to be over. I wanted to not have to wear dresses and answer the phone and find strangers in my kitchen.
I wanted everything to be normal again, and I felt an anticipation every time the front door opened that Tammy might walk in the door. Maybe this was all a big mistake.
One afternoon during the long days of funeral plans and relative visits, three of my friends came over. I was wearing a dress. I never wore dresses. But my friends and I escaped the confines of the house. We walked around my neighborhood.
They didn't know what to say. They tried to talk about my sister, but I wanted to talk about normal things. Who had a crush on whom? What had everyone done for Memorial Day weekend while I lived in this artificial hushed world? After awhile, we started talking about things that had nothing to do with my sister or my family's grief.
When I look back on it now, I could feel guilty that I wanted to rush through the sadness of losing my sister, but I realize that as a 14-year-old, that was the only coping mechanism I had. Pretend things were normal. Go on with my life.
So this afternoon, my boys, probably dressed in cargo shorts and polo shirts, will attend the memorial service for Casey and Josie's brother. They don't have to speak to the parents or share a memory about the brother, but they just need to be there for their friends.
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