“I’ve got an ice cream headache,” my cousin yelled from the back seat of the car, chocolate streaks melting down his arm, his blonde head banging against the car window. My aunt dug to the bottom of her plastic purse, crinkled at the corners from too much use, and pulled out a napkin she took from the chicken place where we just had lunch.
“Here,” she shoved the napkin at him. “Clean your hands, the headache will go away in a minute.” The accent in her voice making her sound a little sterner than she probably intended.
Buzz took the napkin and handed it to me. “I can’t do anything,” he said, “till this goes away.” I took the napkin from him and handed it to Bryon sitting on the other side of me. He needed it more anyway with pink strawberry covering the front of his shirt.
My uncle kept driving, singing to a country tune from the car radio that I’ve long since forgotten, my aunt twisting the black knob trying to lower the sound. “Okay,” he said, “It’s me or the radio.” She took one long look at him, twisted the nob to the far right and the three of us in the back seat jiggled a sit down dance to the blaring beat. By now, Buzz was back to normal, and Bryon still a sticky pink mess beside me.
This is an ice cream kind of memory, blurring colours speeding down a road surrounded by green and barns and cows and living things, lots of living things, so many years ago, the sun warm, never giving even a hint of what was to come.
My uncle lives alone now. In an apartment cluttered with pictures. Lots of pictures. But mostly three big portraits hanging on the wall above his tv. One picture is Buzz, sitting on a tall stool, hippie coloured jeans with the tears at the knee, leaning against a guitar. He’s young, nineteen probably, cause he never lived past 23. Died of a brain tumor.
Another picture is Bryon, his second born son, wearing a police uniform without the hat. Bryon loved being a policeman, but Bryon died of heart complications, when he was 36.
The third picture is my aunt, her hair white, a full thick head of it. Her smile big, but her eyes hooded with the pain of loss. She talked to me about that pain in the mornings when sometimes getting out of bed and having to face a new day was the harder than the physical pain she constantly lived with. She finally left us a few years ago.
I sat in the car with him again, on the day of her funeral. He drove behind the hearse, the big black funeral car right in front of his eyes, all the way to the gravesight. His hands tight against the steering wheel. He wanted to stay as close to her as he could.
I write these things, because this man is a pillar of strength, as was my aunt. And that strength is a testimony to me that life keeps going, and that we have the ability to keep on living, no matter what gets thrown our way.
My only concern for him now is that he’s not a Believer. This is just a sliver of his life experiences, but when you read this, if you could please say a prayer for his salvation, I would very much appreciate it. The only down side to his life is that his heart has grown bitter towards a loving God, and understandably so. His resolve is strong, but his heart is in pain.
Still, he and my aunt have the kind of strength I think about when life seems to get too hard. And I draw from that. I thank God for their example. Though it could have been that much stronger in Him.
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