Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Todd/Anne-Marie: Under Pressure

Family gatherings are weird enough for me. I was proud of myself for the way I played Hayley's birthday, with the whole New York thing, I didn't really see Conner's coming. Sunday was his 11th birthday.

The next day was his grandfather's funeral.

Talk about surreal. He died on Friday, so while Hal and his siblings are making funeral arrangements, I'm still thinking about the birthday stuff and trying to console the kids. Hayley was very upset, and Conner was just blank... I guess everyone handles death in their own ways. I haven't been to a funeral in years, and again, this isn't really my family, but I tried to will myself to feel it during the service.

Anne-Marie and Ellie appeared during the visitation. They kept a low profile. Anne-Marie offered her condolences to her "boss." Kalli didn't introduce herself to anyone, and spoke only to me, Julia and Bryan. She looked really upset I think that might actually have been the first time they met. They went off to talk, and probably so that Ellie could cry without people wondering who she was and why she was there. It was actually quite busy, as Mr. Adkisson had a number of acquaintances come to pay their respects, as well as people from various volunteer groups he'd been involved with (that's probably where most people thought "Kalli" came in, come to think of it.) His widow, Lucille, was very stoic through the whole thing. I offered her my condolences and she just gave me a hug and told me, sadly, that it was his time.

After Anne-Marie and Ellie left, we held the wake at Trudy's house. I found Bryan sitting apart form the other "kids." It was a gorgeous day, so she was sitting on the back porch by the pool. It had been a little while since we'd had a good talk so I took of my shoes and dipped my legs in sitting next to her.

"How are you holding up?"

She shrugged. "He wasn't my grandfather. I'm okay."

I told her "That's now what I'm talking about. You seem like you've been really stressed out lately."

She said she didn't want to talk about it. I told her she could always talk to me, no matter what, because we were still best friends and she was still the most important person I had. The person I cared most about in this place.

She still didn't want to talk about school, but then said something else. "Todd... have you ever wondered what would've happened if we didn't turn into Anne-Marie and Ellie? If we were someone else?" I nodded. Sure, the thought had crossed my mind. "Do you know how easily we could've been him? How easily we could've woken up old, and sick?"

I told her people who were that sick didn't typically go on beach vacations to Maine.

She responded, "My great uncle. He used to travel all around the world. I never really knew him much, he spent a lot of time in Africa and Europe and Asia and stuff. He was a photographer. Hearing stories about him was what inspired me to buy a camera. He was back in Canada for a little while two years ago, preparing to go to the Australian Outback. Then he had a heart attack and died. He was well enough to book the flight and make his plans, and then he was dead. He was like fifty. How can you tell me that couldn't have been us?"

I thought for a moment before responding, "Because it wasn't us, Bryan. We've got two months before we go back. Why are you fixating on this?"

"I'm just... afraid, I guess."

I didn't have much to say to that. I wrapped my arm around her, she rested her head on my chest. After a while I told her, "I'm worried about you, man. I just want you to know things are going to be all right, okay?"

She said, "I just wanna go home."

"Me too."

We've both been through the ringer this past year. I think now, just the waiting is the hardest part.

-Todd/A.M.

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