Thoughts stream through my head most mornings, demanding my attention. Write me down! they scream. Blog about ME!
I gauge the fury of the rapids as they tumble over the rocks and wonder where I should tiptoe into the water. Today I thought about cheating. I felt the tug of self-righteousness pull me towards some indignant toss of my head, with its highlighted curls held in an old white scrunchie.
After eating breakfast, I slid off the wooden stool, cranked the news a bit louder, and started my stretches. On three I lifted my eyes and saw a quartet of sand bottles on the keeping shelf, sitting below the hand-print of my dead brother Steve, done in kindergarten, one of my cherished possessions.
I paused mid-stretch and stared at the grouping, thinking of the little boys standing at the booth at the Renaissance Festival trickling sand into those bottles. My son, two foster children, perhaps Chris Taggart — maybe Maher Sagrillo. i strained to recall if all four came from the same summer. I ran one finger over a cork stopper, feeling the dust. I leaned closer to examine the hand-print, searching for clues to the terrible end of that little boy’s life.
My brother’s face rises before me; at age five, his mouth pursed; his eyes holding worry. I close my own eyes and hear the screaming from the other room; remember touching Stephen’s shoulder, murmuring reassurances. I was four years older than Stephen. I was nine at the time. I remember his tears. Silent, unending streams on his small cheeks.
I think about those two foster children who lived with us during my son’s sixth summer. I remember the reports of the abuse, torture which drove one of them to open a car door and tumble onto the Interstate, hoping to die. At age five.
Those little boys had a sister. The oldest boy, Mikey, aged out of the foster system; the younger boy and the little girl found forever families. I wonder about Mikey. Where did he go after the system could no longer shelter him? Did he find some other haven? Did he survive? Or did he carry his terrible burden as long as he could and then sit beneath a tree, like my brother Stephen, and let himself find an end to pain?
I finished my stretches and came upstairs to write. The maddening clamor has subsided. I cannot recall why I felt the need to talk about cheating, or loneliness, or whatever burden my heart felt it had nobly withstood. I find myself thinking about all the children, and what they endure, and what it does to them. What it did to my brother Stevie Pat. What it did to Mikey.
It’s the twentieth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. For some of us, life continues. Speaking strictly for myself, I intend to cherish each day which lies ahead.