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A Train Ride to the Sky
When I was just a little girl, I can briefly remember a question that I somberly asked my mother while sitting upon her lap. “Why does my uncle live in the sky?” My mother looked at me, and showed no astonishment. She sighed softly, as if she had been preparing for this moment since the day I could speak. Then with no hesitation, her emerald eyes looked into mine, those eyes that caused my father’s love to grow and grow for her, and she told me that it was a train that had brought my uncle to the skies.
Given that I was young and that I still didn’t quite understand the laws of physics, I smiled and replied with a simple, “Oh.” But my mother was not satisfied with giving me such a simple answer; my mother was not a simple woman. With a soft blink of her eyes, she adjusted my tiny body on her lap, so that I could face her, eye to eye; that’s when she began telling me a story that I would never forget.
“Your uncle was a good young man, one who loved children, children just like you. He was outspoken, yet sweet. He never turned away a woman who wished to speak to him, whether she was beautiful on the outside, or merely beautiful on the inside; all woman were equal to him, a trait that most men didn’t have, a trait that lessens on a daily basis. Patrick loved anything with a motor, especially the motorized vehicles that could make him go as fast as the world could possibly allow him to, in the year of 2001. He had a daredevil spirit, my lord, he gave my mother more heart attacks than any of us kids. But that was Patrick, he felt as though he was invincible, even before he took a ride on that dark train.
Patrick began smoking at a young age, merely fifteen. Cigarettes didn’t change his life a great deal at first. And even though our parents were smokers, they tried convincing Patrick that it would be the worse choice that he could ever make, a choice that he would one day regret, a day that would come sooner than he could believe. But an addiction had begun... The first of many to come, but that he did not yet know. After months of smoking, Patrick’s appearance around our home became less abundant. It was then that I lost my best friend.”
I can remember the look on my mother’s face, and still, to this day, I can’t tolerate the image of that expression; I have yet to see someone express more loss or pain on their face, I do believe that it is impossible to top that expression. It was at this time that I began to fear what the story held next, I wasn’t excited for the story to continue, yet I still had a curiosity about me to understand how a train brought my uncle to the sky. Those moments of silence were soon over, my thoughts left for later, as my mother’s expression softened and she began where she had left off.
“I almost forgot to tell you about Patrick and I. We had the closest bond between us three kids. I followed him almost every where, and he didn’t mind in the least. He enjoyed my company, he enjoyed teaching me things, and most of all, he enjoyed bringing me to his school and showing me off to all of his friends; atop his shoulders, I would feel as if I were on top of the world. I have some of the greatest memories of him when I was just about your age.”
At that comment, I couldn’t help but smile. My smile didn’t last long enough for enjoyment though, because just as soon as my mother had begun smiling at the story she was telling, her smile began to fade, and her eyes began to grey. She continued. “Those joyful moments didn’t last forever, those moments lessened through out a short time, until they didn’t have an existence. Only months after Patrick began smoking cigarettes, he chose to make another one of those regrettable decisions, he chose to take a ride on the dark train.
Patrick stepped upon that train, after buying an expensive ticket, and even though our parents had given him all the love they could, even though they had given him every possible want, even though I was at home, eagerly awaiting his arrival, Patrick enjoyed that train ride, much more than anything waiting at home for him. When Patrick did return home, his smile wasn’t nearly as large, his appearance wasn’t quite as handsome, and he didn’t smell as he once did, he smelt almost like our fireplace. And that was only after his first ride. After his second, he returned home with a lessening smile, less of an appealing appearance, and a worsening smell. The third time that he returned home, he returned without a smile, he returned with no meat on his bones, and he returned smelling as though he lived on the streets.”
I was confused, and so I had to ask, “Mommy, how did the train change him like that?” My mother nodded her head and began again.
“Patrick didn’t find the train at a train station, he didn’t find it at he tracks that we cross on our way to the lake, he didn’t find the train where you believe he would. Patrick found the train on dark streets, where the people were not friendly, and could care less about their health. The things that he found on the train made him the way he was, those things were called drugs.”
Yes, I was young, but I knew the least about that word, I knew that they were bad, because my parents didn’t appreciate their existence. It was then that I feared the ending to the story that I had almost asked for.
“It didn’t take long for your grandma and grandpa to try to get Patrick help; they tried just about everything. But the places he went for help failed to do what was intended, and their cost was enough to feed a herd of cattle for centuries. With almost the flip of a coin, our family awoke one day, to a vanished Patrick. We knew where he went, it was obvious to us. Your grandparents searched for him, but came home with nothing more than they had left with. Patrick never did return home. He never came back for his dirtbikes, his friends, his car, his job, or our family.
That train brought Patrick to places that he never imagined. I don’t believe that he ever wished to go down those tracks in the way that he did. He was a daredevil, he was curious and eager to discover. And he believed that the train would give him the best thrill. I some times wonder if he believes that it was worth it. It was hard to see his dirtbikes lay motionless and collecting dust, it was hard to see his room begin to lack its spark. But the hardest part was knowing that one day my sister and I would have children that would never have the love of such a wonderful man.”
My mother then cried, an emotion that she tried to shelter me from. In her mind, a mother is to be strong in front of her children, she should not sob to them and make them feel pain; for she believed that she was the person who should keep them from pain. But today, I’m glad she cried. When I retell this story to others, they some times express disgust when I tell them that my mother told me this story when I was merely five years of age. Some times those people believe that I was corrupted and should have been given a simple answer and told that that was it. But I cannot agree with those people. If my mother would have done so, if my mother would have sugar-coated the story of my uncle’s life and death, I may have followed the same path that he did; I may have taken a ride on that dark train.
Today, as I rock back and forth, back and forth, with my newborn son in my arms I feel complete. And when I look into his eyes, I see the eyes of my uncle, the eyes that I was only allowed to see in photographs. And when he turns five years old, I will also be telling him a story of a train.