February 17, 2004

Patty got up early last

Patty got up early last Tuesday morning to see Allison off to
school. She was her favorite niece. She knew she wasn't supposed to have
favorites. She did love them all, but somehow when Allison was born, she reached
up and grabbed Patty's heart and didn't let go. They climbed into the truck
together. Patty had started it a few minutes earlier to get it warm. Allison was
eight and she would wear nothing but dresses and refused to wear tights. Her
aunt indulged her. It was her privilege to spoil and make allowances. So, the
truck was warmed. They headed to the local doughnut shop for their favorite
breakfast treats. Allison lingered over her chocolate milk and Patty sipped her
coffee. After they finished, they slipped again into the truck. In front of the
school, Patty made sure that Allison had her backpack on and her coat zipped.
She touched her lovely strawberry blonde hair as she kissed her goodbye. Patty
reminded Allison that her daddy would be picking her up after school and to
watch for him. Allison opened the truck door, hopped out, and slammed it shut.
Patty quickly looked over her shoulder to see if any cars were coming and pulled
out into the traffic. She turned up the radio. It had been a good morning. After
driving half a block, she moved over into the left lane to make her turn south
heading to the cabinet factory she worked in. As she made her turn, she felt a
funny bump. Looking over to her right, toward the passenger side, Patty saw
several people waving at her and signaling for her stop. A flat, maybe, thought
Patty. But when she pulled over at the curb and the people raced over, looking
quite horrified, she became anxious. Rounding the front of her truck, she heard
someone shouting instructions to call for help. What in the world is going on?
Did I hit an animal? Starting to the side that people were congregating on, she
saw the hair sticking out from under her tire. My God! Patty took two steps and
fell on her knees. Allison lay mangled beneath the truck. Somewhere Patty heard
sirens and people asking her questions and giving her instructions. She looked
up and saw a piece of Allison's coat sticking out from the passenger side door
of the tall 4x4 Dodge. She began to shout the girl's name; shrieking and begging
her to respond. Someone reached around her shoulders and attempted to pull her
up, but Patty resisted. The crowd parted as two EMT's arrived. "Turn off the
truck," shouted a man's voice. Patty heard it, but couldn't move. A woman
hurried around and shut off the engine. A policeman was ordering people to move
away. Another was asking questions. A third squatted down next to Patty and
placed his arm around her. He quietly asked her name and if he could just ask
her to move away from the truck...The EMT's were working hard on the little girl
now..."Please let me help you over here, out of the way ma'am." Patty moved her
body, but her eyes wouldn't leave Allison. She stumbled and then fell back. Her
stomach wretched and she collapsed on her side, sobbing and speaking
incoherently. Allison was pronounced dead on the scene. Today I took E and A
with me to help serve a grieving family a meal after burying their child. They
weren't members of a church and didn't have much money, so the churches of the
community got together and provided a place to hold the funeral. The women
mobilized a preparation of foods for the dinner after the graveside services,
service of the meal, and clean-up afterward. I didn't know Allison. I heard of
her death from my girls swim team coach Tuesday evening. As is the case so many
times in this life, I wanted to do something, but didn't know what. So, when it
was announced that soups, salads, and desserts were needed to fill the table of
her family in their time of despair, I signed up to make Chicken and Noodles. I
thought it would be something that the children would find appetizing. I recall
seeing many strange looking casseroles at the funeral dinner table when I was
younger. I already felt weird and the food seemed not to comfort but to alienate
me. As I wrote my name on the list, I quickly decided to help serve the meal and
I was taking E and A with me. We arrived a few minutes early. The girls washed
their hands and asked a middle aged woman where they could begin. I slipped into
the hallway and peeked into the service from a back door. My eyes immediately
went to the front where a pink casket was placed, covered in a spray of
sweetheart roses and Baby's Breath. I returned to the serving hall and found the
girls. They helped cut the Jell-O; served the rolls; carried plates and drinks
for the elderly and little ones. They arranged tables and chairs and served
drinks. We moved around quietly and purposefully between the kitchen and the
gym, letting our hands and feet express what our mouths couldn't and what our
hearts didn't know how to do. And so, I couldn't sleep tonight. I went to my
girls rooms and stood in their doorways, listening to them breath.

Posted by Rae at February 17, 2004 12:48 AM

How utterly heartbreaking.

Posted by: Natalie at March 19, 2005 01:18 PM
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