And all I got was this lousy cold. A snot laden, pressure filled head cold with delusions of grandeur ( I think it wants to be an upper respiratory infection when it grows up). I can't breathe, I can't think, and I certainly can't write, not even a little. I can't even whip it up to catch up with everyone in my reader because I'm hopped up on NyQuil,the Care Bears have shown up, and I'd probably say something ridiculous in your comment section. I promise as soon as the fog clears and I'm not hallucinating annoying cartoon characters I will catch up with everyone. In the mean time, I thought I'd re post a piece I wrote when I first started blogging. I think I had two whole readers back then, so hopefully it won't be too redundant.
When I was just about 4 years old, my parents and I were living in student housing while my father completed his doctoral degree here. During that time my mother substitute taught while finishing her teaching degree.
At times my care fell to Lucy, a wizened southern black woman whom my parents met while commissioning her husband to build a trestle table for our kitchen. I still have a warm fuzzy for that long, darkly stained hunk of a table that was still in our house long after I left for college.
Lucy and her husband evidently took a shine to this very young,student poor hippie couple and their precocious child who liked to sing at the top of her lungs to anyone who'd listen, so Lucy would offer babysitting services on afternoons my mother had to be at school. Sometimes she would clean while she watched her "stories". Id sit at that table and color, listening to Lucy talk back to the TV as she shuffled around the kitchen.
One afternoon as Lucy cleaned the kitchen floor, the smell of Spic-N-Span permeated the whole house (that smell, 36 years later, forcibly reminds me of that day),when she opened the screened door and just stood there leaning heavily on her dust mop. I thought she was tired, and needed help shaking out the mop, so I walked over to help her.
"I don't need help child, Lucy just needs to catch her breath"
Those were the last words she spoke. She stumbled back into the kitchen and promptly passed out, falling unceremoniously into my beloved rocking chair. I remember being very concerned for my little red rocking chair, as it was not meant for grownups to take naps in.
"Lucy? Lucy? Ummm, I'm going to go take a walk now" I think on some level I knew something was wrong, but my 4 year old self did not quite understand what that "wrong" could be. As far as I was concerned, she had simply fallen asleep, and In MY red rocking chair.
I wanted my dad to come home and make Lucy get up out of my rocking chair, but I knew he was at the lab working. The Lab was down a short wooded path, across the main highway, and in one of three big red brick buildings. But which one? I toddled myself up to the big road and stopped. I had been told in no uncertain terms that I was NEVER EVER to cross that road without an adult. NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!! SO, I did the next best thing. Yelled.
I'm not sure how long I stood there yelling across the street at the facades of those buildings, but I remember being enthralled at the way my voice echoed off of them. So much so, that I almost forgot why I was yelling at them in the first place. I was four, after all. Luckily our next door neighbor who was also class mate of my father's was home for lunch and heard me yelling.
"What's wrong Chanda?"
"Lucy fell asleep in my rocking chair and won't wake up" (again with the rocking chair).
He stood there for a moment, probably trying to process what this kid just said, then sprinted back toward the house, leaving me to wonder what the big deal was.
Lucy had died of a massive stroke - instantly.
That night my mother sat on the edge of my bed to talk to me about what had happened. She was convinced I would be traumatized, permanently scarred by what I had seen.
"So,is Lucy coming over again tomorrow?"
"No, Honey, she died today"
"Where did she go?"
"Heaven" (as all good Irish Catholic moms would say).
"Is she coming back?"
"No, but she's happy where she is"
"Oh,Okay. Can I have chocolate milk for breakfast?"
Early childhood memories before the age of 4 are spotty at best, but this one stands out in extreme clarity, but not in a traumatic way. At least that's not how I perceived it. Not once do I remember being scared or anxious, even after I had learned of her death. I don't know what that says about me, if anything, or if that's just a how a little kid processes abstract concepts like death.