Those were the last words I heard the Runner say. His dad called him "Bud" and he called his little brother "Bud". Six years is a big age difference when you are just a toddler but the little one followed along and the older one was happy to have him.
In the year of 1990 the construction industry in New England slows to a crawl. The Biker works twenty hours a week from May to November. It is not enough. We are in danger of losing everything we own so we pack up our five little ones and head west looking for greener pastures. We move in with my folks and the Biker goes to work full time framing for my brother.
Shortly after we arrive in February we celebrate two birthdays. The Runner chooses gummy fish to go with the eight candles on his birthday cake. Five days later the little one blows out two candles poked into a green frosted caterpillar.
Six months later on a summer night they are picking up the blocks for me as I finish up the Saturday cleaning by vacuuming Mama's big living room. Later the little one tells me "We made a big castle. We used all the blocks." It is after their bath, the little one is in pajamas; the Runner is wearing his favorite "moo cow" night shirt, an over-sized white tee shirt with a Holstein cow on it. When they finish picking up the Runner asks "Can we go now?" I nod. He says "C'mon Bud" and out the back door they go to see what Dad is doing in the shop. It is about 9 pm, still warm and still daylight. In the shop Dad is working on a shelf for Grandma's laundry room. They watch him measuring and cutting for a bit then gather up a few scraps of fresh cut cedar boards and wander off. Later I find those scraps deposited under a tree and watch as they weather untouched by the hands that placed them there.
The little one comes in and is tucked into bed. He falls asleep asking for his brother. He is the last one to see him alive. I later ask if he saw the Runner fall out of the tree. He leads me to a tree in the front yard. Yes, the Runner did fall out of that tree a few days earlier. The bruise on his knee noted in the autopsy report is from that fall.
Days pass and the little one is still wondering why his brother doesn't come home. He says "Daddy should take the Blazer and go pick him up." I search for words to explain to a two year old about death, about heaven. He says " I'm going to just REACH up there and get him down." He twists his little body and his little arm reaches as high as it can go towards heaven. He pulls it back to himself empty handed.
Five years pass and the little one grows on his way to becoming the Writer. He dictates his thoughts to me:
He was my brother.
I'm sorry that he's gone.
I know he is safe in Heaven.
I know that he is risen.
I loved playing with him.
I most liked playing with the blocks.
He was eight when he died.
I'm sorry that he is gone
but I know him well.
I love him still.
He died in 1991.
I know he loved drawing jets.
I was two when he died.
He was good at drawing jets.
He lives inside me.
He liked his bike.
He loved riding it.
When he died it was mine.
I claimed his Legos, his bike, his racetrack.
I claimed too much stuff.
When I think about him I'm still sad.
1996 July 13
I wonder about my little ones. What happens when a sibling dies? What does it do to their little hearts? What do they miss? What do they gain? Does it make them more compassionate? Does it scar their little souls?
Years pass. Each February we search candy aisles for gummy fish. We mix batter. We bake cupcakes. We tint frosting blue. We scatter sprinkles. One year we ship them to a sailor in Hawaii, then the next year he makes his own. This year we make them here at home and the siblings gather and make cupcakes in Georgia. They cry. We cry. They miss us and we miss them. We miss you "Bud".
I love you "Bud".
I love you bunches and cupcakes - Pat