In Retrospect, A Very Sad Evening

I was five years old but I remember that evening so well. I remember the images in color. I remember the smells. I remember the sounds. For these many years, I wish I could have forgotten.

May is typically a sweet month in Western Pennsylvania. May of 1955 was no exception. The flowers around our home were in full bloom. The air was aromatic and filtered into our den through the screen door on the back porch. The days had been growing longer and after dinner the sun was still full when Pastor Ruble arrived wearing his clerical collar and usual Sunday vestments.

Mom was distraught.  She wore a flowered dress as if she were going to church. Mom was not June Cleaver; dresses were reserved for Sunday. Normally she wore slacks and Keds.   Still wearing his suit with white shirt and black knit tie from work, Dad was somber. Two and a half year- old Don bounced on his barn- red hobby horse, Buck, as if nothing unusual was happening. Baby brother Alan puffed out occasional faint cries interspersed with an endless wheezing. I saw so much out of place. I was gaping-mouth scared.

There was a hushed talk among the adults. I was asked to hold a small silver bowl of water. Don was asked to hold a small towel. We didn’t catch the subtlety of the moment and joked and jumped like, well, like young boys. I am guessing I was trying to deal with my fear.

Some words were spoken. Baby Alan cried when water was applied to his head. In a few minutes, it was over. In a few days, my little brother would be dead. There is just nothing anyone can say or do to mend what happened back then.

Nearly fifty years later, I visited my house which had become an antique shop. I went and stood where I had stood that night. I cried the tears I did not know I needed to shed that night long ago.