I never knew sheriff’s officers drove red trucks. Not until that night. I could barely make it out, at the end of my parent’s quarter-mile long driveway. Its presence told me my world was about to implode. I froze. No, I had to drive. Dad had called me, and said only one thing, “Catherine, you need to come home.” But what about the boys? (I was babysitting my sister’s four kids in town.)
“Catherine, you need to come home.” It was all he could say. It must have taken all of his strength just to get that sentence out.
I parked. The air thickened. Movements were in slow motion. The mist suspended in the air as I made my way to the door. My father, a large man with broad shoulders, was slumped over in his chair. He cries came out as whimpers, his body shaking. He stood and walked to me. Somehow, he got up from that chair. Probably because I was paralyzed on the small closed-in front porch.
It was then that my body lifted, and I observed what was about to happen next from above. Like my soul was trying to get as far away from the inevitable devastation. “Your brother is dead. He killed himself.”
Screaming. Someone was screaming. Hysterically. It was me. Only one word. “No..no…no!!!” We held each other up, my dear father and me. A part of me will always be in that embrace. Two grief-crushed loved ones clinging to each other as if letting go might mean falling to our death. The finality of that moment has clung to me. Has filled me with anxiety. The sky has fallen once. It can fall again.
Then, one by one, we fell like dominoes. Family member after family member pulled into that driveway, their headlights a warning signal that we would soon have to be the bearers of the ultimate bad news. First, was my mother. My sweet, brave, kind mother. I don’t know how her heart didn’t explode with sadness. But she embraced me. Held me. While her world was spiraling and she could have just focused on her own wounds, she comforted me. She was my mommy when I needed her the most.
Next, my sister Becky and her husband Curtis. They’d been at a Halloween party. She was dressed as cave woman, and I’d even put a plastic bone in her hair earlier that evening. I always felt bad for her, that she didn’t even have the dignity of being dressed in normal clothes when she found out. I haven’t been much for Halloween since then.
My sweet Aunt Betty was next. Always the rock, always the caregiver. Her presence that night solidified a strong bond we still share.
When I saw the hazards on the white Blazer flying down the driveway, I knew that my brother Luke must have felt a change in the atmosphere when Eric left this earth. They shared a bond only brothers can understand. Two computer nerds who loved picking on their little sister and telling jokes until their eyes stung with tears.
How did we survive that night? How did we breathe, eat, or even go to the bathroom? Does your bladder shut down when your heart splits in two? It must.
Luke and I slept next to each other on the living room floor, right outside my parent’s bedroom. Just like children scared of the dark. How did we not sink into the floor? Sleep came easier than expected. Crying hysterically for hours wears your body down. We fell like dominoes, and some of us have never completely stood back up.