“Nights in white satin, never reaching the end. Letters I’ve written, never meaning to send ...”
The Saturday afternoon sun gleamed weakly through the living room window as “Nights in White Satin” played. Jessica and Stacey sat on the couch curled up together, looking through pictures of Kayla and Dad, trying to find ones to display for their funeral.
“Beauty I’d always missed, with these eyes before ...”
“Look at her smile in this one,” Jessica choked out. Tears welled in her eyes, but she refused to allow them to fall. Instead they blocked her throat, causing each word to squeeze past. “God, she was so beautiful.”
Jess passed the picture to my mom, sitting exhausted in her wheelchair with two broken legs. We all understood her tiredness. My sisters and I would have done anything to take away the pain that had drained her eyes of the joy they had always reflected before ... before the day that cement truck destroyed our family.
The wind. If it had been the other driver or even my father’s fault, it might have been easier, but how can you be angry at the wind? How could any of us accept that our van, for one split second, had been taken by the wind and carried across the yellow line into the path of that truck loaded with concrete? Have you ever been afraid of the wind? I have.
“She is! Not was,” Mom whispered, her voice trailing off, succumbing to the pain that enveloped us all. “She is beautiful.”
It was too hard to say anything. I felt tears cascading down my cheeks, wetting the path which had endured so many others in the last few days. Big tears came and fell slowly, the kind you cry when you don’t know just what else to do.
They just kept falling and falling and falling.
“Just what the truth is, I can’t say anymore ...”
Mom said, “Girls, will you help me to bed?” Her voice echoed something I had never heard before - helplessness.
My sisters and I got up to help her. The railing on the side of the bed clunked when it hit the metal on the base holding the mattress. The bed sat sadly along the wall in the living room, as it would for months until Mom could make it up the stairs. The flowered sheets had been pulled off her own bed; they still smelled a little like my dad. We helped her slide in and put a pillow under her broken legs. Nothing was said. That itself meant a thousand words.
“Gazing at people, some hand in hand, just what I’m going through, they can’t understand ...”
I joined Jessica and Stacey in looking at the pictures. Several of the rolls of film from Las Vegas had already been developed, and in most we stood smiling, happy, and blind to what was going to happen so soon. How could anyone predict that after being in a dangerous city, in an unsafe neighborhood, and flying in a turbulent plane five months after 9/11, that the drive home would be the end? And it wasn’t the entire drive home, just the last 20 miles, so close to home.
“Some try to tell me thoughts they cannot defend. Just what you want to be, you will be in the end ...”
I couldn’t look at the pictures anymore; they were too happy. I picked up one of the sympathy cards and read, “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.” I felt like if I heard one more “I’m sorry” or “Are you okay?” I was going to snap. I always forced a smile but what I really wanted to do was scream, “How the hell do you think I am?” I know they meant well, and I am thankful that so many people cared, but at that point I felt they were being inconsiderate. I put the card back and listened for my favorite part of the song, the part my dad had sang to us so many times, the song I used to sit on the couch and listen to as he played his guitar.
My mom shifted in the bed as the chorus played. “And I love you. Yes, I love you. Oh, how, I love you ...” And then she broke down. She cried so hard that - when I think about it - the sound of her hyperventilating will always break my heart, so hard that “Nights in White Satin” will always bring drops of anguish to my eyes. Her whole body moved, in an almost patterned rhythm; it convulsed as she fought for each breath. The now-too-quiet house reverberated with sobs as she tried to regain control.
The tears kept coming. I crawled in next to her. Jess and Stacey followed, sitting around us. And there the four of us sat, and there we cried. Six minus two equals four, right? It isn’t a big difference in numbers, but when you are talking about human lives - my sister, my father - it’s everything.
We were there for each other at that moment, as we always were, and I knew deep in my soul that we always would be. During the breakdowns at restaurants, during birthdays, at the dinner table at Christmas, or just getting together to be together, we were there.
“Oh, how, I love you ...”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.