Today, I sat beneath a tree at the park watching kids play. Watching the kids play brought back memories.
I was a few days shy of my 12 birthday, when both my parents died. Dragging their bodies to the backyard took most of the morning. I wanted to bury my mom and dad in a grave but the ground was too hard. I couldn’t push the shovel into the dirt more than a couple of inches no matter how hard I tried. By the end of the day, both of my hands were bloody with blisters, and my back hurt.
Determined to give my parents a proper burial, I placed a blue tarp from my dad’s tool shed over their bodies and then layered bricks my parents planned to use to build a fire pit over the tarp. With two pieces of wood and nails, I fashioned together a cross. On the cross, I wrote my parent’s names.
My family went to church twice a year. I had never been to a funeral. I relied on what I had seen in the movies to hold my little church service. I opened my mom’s bible and flipped to Psalms. I didn’t know what I should read so I read the first couple of lines on the page.
After I said goodbye to my parents, I walked back inside the house. My heart ached. I was alone and terrified. The world outside my front door was in turmoil. Sounds and smells of death were everywhere. The street gangs were running up and down the streets in my neighborhood fighting and destroying what was left of our beautiful neighborhood. I went to my room, hid beneath my blankets, covered my ears and prayed to God that he would let me die.
I climbed out of bed the following day and staggered into the kitchen for a bite to eat. There was nothing edible in the refrigerator. The pantry contained egg noodles, flour, sugar, sauerkraut and a single can of lima beans. I grabbed the can of beans. The electric can opener sat on the counter but was useless. My house had been without power for a couple of weeks, nothing electrical worked. The manual can opener was in a drawer, next to the stove on the other side of the room. The kitchen wasn’t very large but with wobbly legs, the walk seemed difficult. I had to stop midway to catch my breath and wait for a feeling of light-headedness to pass. It took all of my remaining strength to open the stubborn can. The effort made me cry.
I walked into the living room, wrapped my mom’s quilt around my shoulders and sat on the couch. I stared at the open can. I hated those beans. I didn’t want to eat them but my stomach hurt. The first bite of beans caused me to heave but I swallowed any way.