2. The Funeral Home, the Uncle and the Dream
By the time Tom arrived at the Funeral home, most people had left. His mother was sitting on a bench in the hallway, her arms around his grandmother, both of them sobbing. Tom sat next to them and they both held onto him like helpless kittens. He could see Gary’s father, his Uncle Barry, talking to someone who looked like a staff in the home. His Aunt Silvia, Gary’s mother, was sitting on a chair next to his uncle, her eyes swollen. Gary died in a motorcycle accident. He was 19.
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?”
Tom looked up, his mother still attached to his torso. It was his Uncle Pete.
“How’d it happen?”
“No helmet.” Tom had always admired his uncle’s way with words. His mother started bawling. As a reaction, so did his grandmother. Tom decided it would be better if they went home, so he called a taxi and sent them back.
As the taxi disappeared from view, Tom and Uncle Pete were left standing on the side of the road.
“Take good care of your mother, Tom.”
“Yes, I know.”
“You never know what will happen. Look at Gary, he didn’t have much going for him, but he had a lot in front of him. Your Aunt Anne, she didn’t see it coming either. A year now, I still can’t get over it. Don’t think I ever will.”
Tom just remembered what had happened to Aunt Anne a year ago.
“We all miss her.”
“She was special. If only I had known beforehand, I could have saved her. If I had taken her to the hospital just ten minutes earlier…if there had been a sign.”
Tom felt a sudden rush, as if a cold mouse had bolted from the bottom of his spine to his head.
“Uncle Pete, I have something I need to tell you.” That was a lie. Any opportunity to tell anybody about what had been on his mind for the past few weeks was long desired, and whether it was Uncle Pete or anyone else didn’t matter much. As Tom shared the details of his encounters, Uncle Pete listened and watched with his distinctly intent eyes. Describing the voice Tom had been hearing still required an immense amount of effort to overcome the fear.
When Tom finished, there was at first no reaction from Uncle Pete, which Tom was deciding if he had actually listened or not.
“Do you think I’m crazy?”
“No.” Tom was relieved to know he hadn’t been ignored.
“So it’s been happening to me for the past few weeks. It just comes randomly, I have no control over it. But I know it means something, I just don’t know what. What you said before, about a sign…it got me thinking. Maybe Gary…” Uncle Pete looked unhealthily pale. “Are you ok, Uncle Pete?”
“Around Anne’s death…I would hear a voice. It would say something in my ear in a language I didn’t understand. I couldn’t move…couldn’t talk. I was just there, staring.”
“But that’s just like what happened to me!”
Uncle Pete looked at Tom, the alertness in his eyes almost completely disappearing.
“When did it stop for you?”
“I don’t remember…some time after her death? I don’t know…”
“And it never came back?”
Uncle Pete looked at Tom again, this time with eyes Tom had never seen on a man before. It was the look of depressing revelation.
“I could have saved her” his voice was shaking now, “I could have saved her…it was trying to tell me…but I didn’t do anything, Tom. I didn’t do anything…”
It was a feuding mixture of emotions that circled Tom on his way home that night. He was dampened by his Uncle Pete’s sad realization, but on the other hand could not help but feel a heavy weight lifted. He had figured out the motivation for the episodes of the past few weeks, and although it was in no way a result worth rejoicing, with Gary’s passing the disturbing seizures should be history too.
That night, Tom slept sounder than he had slept for a long while. He had almost no time to give a reaction or thought when his heart pounded each beat in pain and everything around him turned dim.