Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dark Skies

It was October 1979 and my Aunt Sharon had cancer. I didn't really know what cancer was but I knew it made her very, very sick. Aunt Sharon was married to my mom's oldest brother. She had a dining room with a tablecloth and a china cabinet where we ate sometimes. Freshly baked cakes always appeared when we visited. She wore skirts every day and her blonde hair was always just so. She never raised here voice even when there was a house full of loud cousins.

She was in and out of a hospital 769 miles away. She couldn't take care of her children. Mom said she was very tired. She couldn't cook dinner or fold laundry. She couldn't do the things moms do. Her boys were in high school. Her daughter was in third grade- a year younger than me. 

Mom bought an airplane ticket to New York. In all of my nine years, I'd never known my mom to fly on an airplane. She took my little brother out of kindergarten and called in favors from friends and neighbors. We piled into our white station wagon and drove them to the Cincinnati airport. I don't remember how long she was gone or what we did while she was there.

It was still dark outside when the black wall phone started ringing and my bedroom wall vibrated. I heard Dad's hushed voice. My sister and I were already crying when he came in to tell us. Even now we recognize those heartbreaking bad news phone calls before we pick up the phone.

I packed the dark blue vinyl suitcase my Gran had gotten me for Christmas the year before. It was my favorite color. I wonder if she knew then I would need it to travel to her daughter in law's funeral?

It was dark and cloudy when Dad drove us to school. He walked with us through the empty halls. Mrs. Jeter handed gave me a folder full of work I'd be missing and gave me an extra long hug. We weren't sure yet when we'd be back.

I cried and cried and cried as Dad drove along I-75 North. It was dark and rainy. They sky was crying too.

I puked all over myself and the backseat somewhere in Ohio or maybe it was Pennsylvania. Dad pulled over to the side of the road  and cleaned me up the best he could.

We rolled down the windows and I rode in the front seat the rest of the way. Squashed between my sister and my dad.


After an extremely long hiatus I am joining the talent at Yeah Write.
Write, read, vote.

41 comments:

Stacie @ Snaps and Bits said...

Robbie, I'm sorry for your loss. Cancer sucks, no question about it. Your Aunt sounds like she was a wonderful person. It's so GREAT to see you on the grid!

writingmehome said...

I love the way you used your syntax and details to show how a young child experiences cancer. You covered so much rich ground here. Nicely done.

Kirsten Oliphant said...

Glad to see you back! I agree with writingmehome--great details and I think you really captured the view of this kind of experience from a child. Lovely, and sad at the same time.

cynk said...

You did a great job of taking us back to the way you experienced this as a 9-year-old.

Robbie K said...

I know you know exactly how much cancer sucks. Thanks for the welcome back. She was wonderful.

Robbie K said...

Thank you so much.

Robbie K said...

It's good to be back. I've been desperate to write again. Thanks for your kind words.

Robbie K said...

I still feel 9 when I think about it. Thanks.

Larks said...

This was so well told and just heartbreaking. I recently lost an aunt to cancer and even in my 30's in a lot of ways I felt like the 9 y/o you. Especially the part about the phone call.

Daffodil Campbell said...

The details put me right there. The suitcase, the wall phone..... I can tell from this post that this was a huge moment in your childhood, that affects you even now....

Bee said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I do love the way you tell the story from a child's perspective. And wall phones! I do remember those. Great to have you back, Robbie!

Kimberly said...

Your words took me right back to that place so many years ago. I am so sorry that your family went through this. My heart breaks for you.

Gina said...

I got tears in my eyes reading this. I was graduating high school in 1979 so I had a frame of reference for your poor cousins. This was such a wonderfully, to the gut, piece. Those freaking phone calls have a "vibe" all their own.

IASoupMama said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, even if it was long ago. Those losses leave big imprints on us, don't they? I love the way you've told this -- makes me think of all the random stuff I remember from when my grandparents died when I was 7 & 8 years old. Pastrami and M & Ms (not together). Stuff like that.

Natalie the Singingfool said...

I am so sorry for such a loss. The way you tell it puts me back to my first loss, the voice of a child who maybe doesn't understand it all, but understands the pain.

Dawn Beronilla said...

"The sky was crying too."
Of all of the powerfully descriptive lines you have here, this one is my favorites.
I am sorry for your loss, and I thank you for sharing the story with us.

christina said...

oh i feel this. :(

AnnMarie said...

I felt like I was right there with you, feeling the dread and sorrow. I'm so sorry that you lost your aunt to the evil cancer. I'm sorry that at the tender age of 9, you learned about loss. I hate the middle of the night phone calls.

fiftyshadesofpeach.com said...

I loved the language you used in the story to convey the childlike innocence, so severely broken. How awful of an experience.

Welcome back to the grid, with big hugs.

Samantha Brinn Merel said...

Welcome back to the grid! I am so sorry for your loss. Sounds like she was an amazing lady.

ateachablemom.com said...

Love the way you detailed this early loss in your life. Thank you for sharing something so intimate and real. Beautifully written 9 year old voice.

Michelle Longo said...

That must have been such a scary and sad time for you.
Good to see you on the grid again!

Anne said...

Death in the family is always a tragedy, no matter how they were taken. But your memory of the experience held such a sweetness only a child could have.

Robbie K said...

Those phone calls are horrific aren't they? I'm sorry or your loss.

Robbie K said...

It was a hue moment. It was odd to me to discover what details I didn't know..such as how old she was.

Robbie K said...

Thanks for your kind words and the welcome back. That wall phone had to have had the loooongest cord in the world.

Robbie K said...

Thanks for your kinds words.

Robbie K said...

Yes those phone calls get you in the gut don't they? Thanks.

Robbie K said...

In writing this I was a bit surprised to realize the details I remember and the ones I forgot. I have no idea how long my mom & brother were gone or what we did after school every day while they were there.

Robbie K said...

Thank you. I remember being so devastated and sad or my cousin, who was a year younger than me but I don't know that I was able to convey that to her.

Robbie K said...

Thank you. That line I added at the end as i remembered driving on the interstate with the rain pounding and the windshield wipers going full blast.

Robbie K said...

I know you truly do. Thinking of you and yours.

Robbie K said...

Those phone calls are the worst. I feel a sense of panic and dread whenever the phone rings in the middle of the night or before the sunrises.

Robbie K said...

Thank you. I feel every bit a 9 year old when I think back to that time.

Robbie K said...

Thank you. She was an amazing lady and a bit of a mystery to me. When writing this I learned that she was a preschool teacher-as I was for 12 years.

Robbie K said...

Thanks. I feel every bit the 9 year old, with a lump in her throat sitting on the top bunk hearing that dreaded shrill ring of the phone.

Robbie K said...

It was and with a 9 year old daughter now it seems even scarier.

Robbie K said...

I'm overwhelmed by your words and insight. Thank you.

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Cristy S said...

Wow! Cancer and death are always scary, but to a 9 year old it is the unknown. I remember when I was 6 and my grandpa died of a heart attack. I was terrified that my heart was going to attack to and I would die. My dad pushed me to go see him in his casket and give him one last kiss. Kissing him on his forehead gave me a little shock because of the static electricity. These are all very vivid memories. Thanks for sharing yours. I enjoy reading your writing.

Robbie K said...

wow..those are vivid memories! I remember forcing myself to go up the caskets at funerals b/c I felt like the person would know if I didn't.