Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Big Day

It was another big day back home because my older brother turned 35 today.

It is very hard for me to believe that my older brother is 35 years old. To me, it seems as if he first enrolled in college only six or seven years ago and that he should be, roughly, 24 years of age.

My parents have a different view. They contend that it seems as if my older brother first enrolled in grade school only six or seven years ago and that he should be, roughly, twelve.

One of the earliest memories I possess is my memory of my older brother’s tenth birthday. He was allowed to host a birthday party that year and to invite his friends from school and church—and I, four years old, was not allowed to attend, which saddened me greatly. I KNEW the party was going to be lots of fun, and I did not understand why I (and my middle brother) had to be packed off to my grandparents’ house for the duration of the party.

Of course, after five minutes at my grandparents’ house, I forgot all about the birthday party—until my grandmother announced that it was time for her to make my brother’s birthday cake, which for me served as an instant reminder of all the fun I was missing back home at the party.

In fact, I am confident the party was entirely lame, because my brother says he remembers absolutely nothing of what occurred at his birthday party—except for one very sad thing: the mother of one of his classmates was killed in an automobile accident while driving that classmate home after the party. The classmate suffered no injuries in the accident, but his mother died instantly at the accident scene, her death the result of a horrible (and probably freakish) blow to the head. Had she been wearing a safety belt, she probably would have suffered no harm whatever.

My family was to learn of the tragedy within minutes of its occurrence.

Once the birthday party was over, and all guests had departed, my parents and my older brother set out for my grandparents’ house, where there was to be a second birthday celebration. En route, they were soon overtaken and passed by speeding police cars and an ambulance. Very quickly thereafter, they came upon the accident scene.

My parents recognized the car involved in the accident, and so did my brother. They had arrived at the accident scene just as the body of the mother was being transferred from the automobile to the ambulance, while the stunned ten-year-old son stood alongside the car, apparently in shock.

My father sent my mother and my brother on to my grandparents’ house, while he remained at the accident scene. My father knew the boy, and he knew the boy’s father, and he knew that the boy should not be left to deal with the tragedy alone among strangers.

It was a horrible situation.

The police took my father and the boy to the hospital, where they waited for the boy’s father to arrive. It took the authorities more than two hours to locate the father, and another hour before the father arrived at the hospital. Only then was anyone officially informed that the mother had been pronounced dead—but my father and the boy, three hours earlier, had realized that she had died at the accident scene.

That was an agonizing afternoon, twenty-five years ago today.

Today’s birthday celebration was, thankfully, wholly a happy one.

My mother made a pineapple-coconut birthday cake, made from fresh pineapple and fresh coconut, and she prepared one of my brother’s favorite dinners for his birthday: filet mignon, twice-baked potatoes, green beans, fried red tomatoes, and genuine corn pudding, preceded by a pasta-seafood salad.

Joshua and I were not present in person to share in the celebration, but we were there in spirit—and we WILL be home in another seven days.

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