“Is this your brother?” (Day 2, Part 1)

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 – Philip still hadn’t called me back. I still didn’t think anything of it. I figured I was on his mental to-do list. But I wanted to talk to him, so by afternoon I called and this time, I left him a message: “Well, I know you’re not dead in a ditch ‘cause someone would’ve called me by now. Call me.”

He was not in a ditch; at least I got that right.

Later that night, home, alone, I turned on “Lost.” It’s available on instant-watch through Netflix. I didn’t much like “Lost,” but I’d been watching it with Natalie during the summer. When she left for Rutgers and watched a few episodes without me, I figured I’d let it go. But I was afraid something really good and mind-blowing would happen and I would miss the Big Point after all the hours I’d spent watching this crap. We were, after all, up to season six. And much as I swore I’d never forget what scene I was watching when I got The Call, forget I did. Juliet and Michael were on the beach, I remember, but that narrows it down to exactly nothing. It’s Lost, for God’s sake. Everyone is always on the beach.

But the first time the phone rang, it was not The Call. It was Natalie. When I answered, she was choked and panicked and saying, “Mom, mom.” Since she often called choked and panicked and saying, “Mom, mom,” I did what I always do.

“Natalie. Natalie. Breathe.”

“But mom…”

“Natalie. Take a breath. I can’t understand you when you’re like this. Take a breath and tell me what happened.”

Nothing unusual about the silence that followed. Nothing unusual, either, in the abrupt change in her voice when she said, “Mom, I have to go.”

“Oh no you don’t. You’re not hanging up like this. Tell me what happened.”

Mom. I have to go.”

“Okay, okay. But call me back and let me know what’s going on.”

On my end, I thought her roommate walked in or someone started pounding on the door and that she would head for the nearest empty hall, stairway, bathroom or closet, wherever she could find somewhere to talk to me in private. It’s happened before. Uncontrollable weeping gets controllable real fast when you’re afraid one of your peers might catch you doing it.

On her end, she hung up, holding the photocopy of Philip that the four policemen who were standing in her room had given her when she opened the door and found them standing there. “Is this your brother?” they’d asked. A question harmless enough, except when it isn’t. Except when you realize it’s a question you’ve heard your entire life but you probably weren’t going to be hearing very often any more. And since she realized I didn’t know, she figured she’d give me a few more minutes peace before I woke to the nightmare that would become my new reality.

© 2013 Denise Smyth


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stacie
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 17:52:19

    My daughter died just a few days after your son did. She was 16 — 3 weeks shy of her 17th birthday. She was bright, beautiful, engaging….She died in a tragic one-car accident. Hit a patch of ice and she was gone. Though I haven’t written a blog, I have journaled the last year…and it has helped. I understand your trying to make sense of life now with this big hole in your heart. I think if we have any hope of healing, we have to express our feelings in some manner. Those of us who have lost a child understand this need. It doesn’t go away, this hurt. All we can do is learn how to cope with it.


    • Denise
      Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:09:54

      So very sorry for your loss. I’ve kept a journal of sorts, which has been mostly ranting. It’s been too hard for me to write since he died, but it’s time. It’s one way of coping.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: