Bound For Life
Chester, only five, could sense something was troubling his parents. His mom had tried to explain what had happened, but he couldn't grasp her meaning.
Relatives began dropping by. He recognized most of them, but many were strangers. His parents were gone more than usual. Chester and his two younger sisters were frequently left with babysitters.
After a few days he and his sisters were dressed up in Sunday clothes. He asked why, since he knew it wasn't Sunday. They were in the car and his mom turned back to answer. "This is a kind of special day honey."
He considered her answer and decided it wasn't good enough. "You mean like a holiday?" he asked.
Mom glanced at the kids' dad, and coughed. When she looked back to Chester her eyes brimming with tears. It was just too hard for her to do anything other than quickly nod and then turn around in her seat. She faced forward the rest of the way. Chester noticed that she was shaking a little.
They stopped in the parking lot of a large building. There were a lot of other cars and trucks there. Everyone got out of the car and began walking to the building. It was like a house but bigger. There were a lot of people standing around. Some were under trees. Some sat on benches. Most of them looked sad.
They went into the building through large double doors and stopped at a fancy desk. Mom wrote in a book while Chester looked around. As they approached the building mom had told his sister that it was some kind of parlor. Grandma and Grandpa's house has a parlor, he thought. This room with the desk was kind of like theirs, only bigger.
He followed his parents down a hallway until they came to another set of double doors. Together they entered a large room full of beautiful flowers. He had never seen so many red, white, yellow and other colors of flowers before. Most of the flowers were on one side of the room and a lot of people were by them. For some reason the flowers were making some of them cry.
Some people moved and Chester saw something else by the flowers. It was a large fancy box of some kind. "Come on children," his mom said as she directed them to approach the box.
People moved aside as they neared. Then Chester saw Grandpa. He was sleeping in the box.
The next hour passed quickly. Chester had so many questions, but was shushed into silence. He was especially perplexed when the box was closed with Grandpa still in it.
The box was loaded in a long black car and taken away. A long line of cars and trucks followed, including his mom and dad's. He and his sisters were taken to another large building where there was a lot of food and red punch. He was encouraged to eat something, but he was filled with questions, not hunger. Whenever he asked someone a question, though, he was told to ask his parents. So, he just started listening to the adults talking.
He learned a frightening truth - his Grandpa was not coming back. He struggled to understand.
When all those who had followed the black car returned, he listened to what all those people were saying. He wandered from group to group taking in snippets of conversation, seemingly unnoticed by the adults.
In one group a lady he didn't recognize said the family should have an annual holiday to honor the 'dearly departed'. "What's a dearly departed?" he asked. He was told to run along and play.
After a while Chester noticed his Grandma and watched her from a distance. He felt sorry for her. It seemed like everyone was trying to make her cry. They are so mean to her, he thought. Finally he could take it no longer. He ran over and hugged her. Everyone thought that was cute, but then were shocked when he looked at them and began yelling, "Leave my Grandma alone! Stop making her cry!"
Chester's dad suddenly appeared, picked him up and whisked him away. For the rest of the afternoon he just wanted to go home.
Chester emerged from his reflections. His wife was still harping at him. "Chester, why are you always such a wet blanket on holidays?"
"Sorry," he answered. "I can't seem to help it."
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