Driving into my mother’s yard, I see everyone standing around on the porch. Breathing is already difficult. I square my shoulders. This is going to hurt.
My mother has made his favorite dinner. There’s cake and balloons. His children flitter around in the spaces between. My stepfather is stoic. My brother is quiet. My mother is fragile. My sister is watching her husband and trying to lift the mood.
Addison is three and she jumbles her words. They tumble out as fast as her brain can think. I was frustrated with my lack of understanding. I plainly said “Addy, I’m so sorry, honey but I’m only catching every third word, I just can’t understand you.” She shugged off my frustrations.
Sitting quietly while we ate Boo’s favorite meal Bugga says “I really wish I could see my Daddy right now, I miss him”. I understood every word that precious three year old said.
Haley Kate is ten. She understands far too much and her pain is buried deep inside. Instead of showing the pain we all feel, she grabs the lighter and lights the candles. She sings the loudest and brightest as the rest of us crumble. We sing happy birthday to my dead brother. Bugga and Haley Kate blow out the candles. We release balloons into the sky. Bugga informs us all that the balloons will find her Daddy, Haley Kate grabs her bike and rides after the balloons. She disappeared around the corner. I wanted to disappear with her.
Instead I get in my car and drive the 500 feet to my house. I just attended my dead brother’s birthday party. It was worse than I imagined.