With love and hope for peace,
Angels Die And Stuff
Edward Coletti © 1996
I'm Alan. My mommy died, and I miss her a lot. I'm six-years-old.
My daddy cries sometimes. I don't cry very much anymore because daddy is sad and I don't want to make him sadder.
When my Aunt Darlene told me that Mommy is in heaven with God and is an angel, I kind of thought she was just trying to make me feel better. It did...sort of...especially when Aunt Darlene said that I could see Mommy again someday after I die.
I didn't want to die but, if I could see my mom again and be with her, then maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
Daddy and I were having supper. He makes good spaghetti, and I was getting it all over me, and he didn't care much. I said, "Daddy, Aunt Darlene said that Mommy is an angel now and waiting for us with God in heaven, and I'll see her again someday."
My dad just looked at me. He seemed very very sad. His chin had sauce all over. It looked like he cut himself shaving. But my daddy is a surgeon and he wouldn't ever cut himself. He just looked at me a very long time and finally said, "Alan, you're a big boy. You don't believe in Santa Claus, do you?"
I didn't know what he meant by that. Of course I didn't believe in Santa Claus. Almost all the other kids in first grade did, but I didn't, and we still had awesome Christmases...with presents and Jeff and Aunt Darlene and Uncle Brad (my dad's stepbrother) and sometimes Grandma and Grandpa Benson from the ranch. And one year the Christmas tree was decorated only with tikis and it was really beautiful. And mommy wore a Polynesian dress with big colory flowers all over it. And we sang funny songs.
My mommy was so beautiful! Daddy told her that she looked like a Christmas tree in her dress. I think she was the most beautiful...most beautiful...lady I ever saw.
"Well, Alan, if you don't believe in Santa Claus, why do you believe in angels?"
Daddy made me mad. He didn't understand what I meant.
"I don't believe in angels either," I yelled.
"Then you don't believe your mommy is an angel"
I know he wasn't trying to be mean, but it felt mean to me.
"No, of course I don't believe mommy is an angel." I was almost crying.
Then he seemed the meanest of all.
"Well then, you can't believe in Mommy's existence anymore if she's not an angel, and not in heaven, and not with God."
I wouldn't cry.
"I don't believe in God!" I think I screamed that.
Daddy took off his dirty glasses and put down his newspaper. Then he picked me up and held me tight on his lap. I still didn't cry until he put his nose right against mine and looked at me a long time and said, "Alan, your mother was always an angel."
One night at bedtime, when Jeff came to stay over at our house with Aunt Darlene and her new husband Fred (I don't like Fred very much. He wears real big glasses, and all his teeth are real straight and like there're no spaces between them, and there're too many teeth to fit in his mouth all at once), I heard Jeff crying. So I went back into my room where he was already in my bed (Jeff kicks a lot when he's staying over), and he just kept on crying something awful. So I asked, "What's wrong, Jeff?"
And he said, "Shut up!"
Jeff's seven and he sometimes thinks he's such a big second grader and all but he was my guest, so I tried to be pretty nice, and, besides, he was crying and didn't want me to know it. So I just went back into the bathroom and brushed my teeth real good for a long time and, when I went back into my bedroom, the lights were still on. All of the lights. Before, only one was on. I have three lamps in my room. One's a Bert and Ernie from when I was little. One's a giraffe with a hat on. The other's just a plain old lamp. Jeff had them all on.
"I'm going to turn the lights off now, Jeff," I said.
He had the covers pulled clear to his chin. Jeff's eyes looked scared to me.
"No!" He sounded like he was trying to be tough but then he looked at me like his face was going to break in pieces and he said, "Please...don't."
He seemed real sad or afraid or something. So I wanted to help him, "Well, OK," I said, "but we're going to have to fall asleep and that's hard with so many lights on."
Jeff didn't say anything, so I had to keep thinking and figure out what to do.
"Maybe just one light's enough. OK, Jeff?"
It was so sad the way he begged me.
"What's the matter, Jeff?"
He didn't even stop to think this time. Jeff just busted out crying again and was talking at the same time.
"I'm afraid of dying!" he bawled.
I was really surprised and said, "You're not going to die, Jeffy...at least not tonight."
"How do you know that, you little..."
I started to get mad at him again but then I remembered that he was just being a jerk like I was the day my mommy died and sometimes after, so I just said the best thing I could think of, "Kids don't die that much, Jeff."
"I know that! but there's always a chance. Ever since my mom and Fred made me start saying that prayer out loud with them, I been real sure I'm going to die."
I felt pretty good that Jeff was sharing with me. My mommy always said it was real important that we share how we feel when we're sad or even happy and stuff. She was always sharing with Daddy and me, like when she told me that she wished real hard that I could have a baby sister, and I said, "That's OK, Mommy, I don't need a baby sister."
I was only four or just five then and was so dumb. Now I know that she didn't mean it to be for me...the baby...but she was the one who wanted a baby girl, and she was going to call her "Imogene" because Mommy said she always smiled when she thought of that name and she hoped she'd be a "cute little ugly duckling." And she is too. I mean she's not ugly at all...Imogene...my baby sister. She's real cute. And I don't care that I've got to feed her when Daddy or Mrs. Martinez are busy.
Anyway, I asked Jeff, "What was the prayer?"
He wouldn't answer me at first. Like he thought saying the prayer would remind him of the bad stuff. So I got into bed with him and told him in a nice way which side was his and which was mine, and, when I was just lying on my back and had my eyes closed and wasn't paying much attention to him, Jeff coughed and whispered, "Ari...you still awake?"
"Ari" is my nickname in the family only. My real name is "Alan Aristophanes Benson." My mother did that to me. She was an actress, and Aristophanes wrote plays. He was Greek. He'd be like Steven Spielberg or somebody now. Nobody calls me "Ari" in school. No one in school knows. My dad mostly calls me "Alan" now.
"Ari," Jeff called, louder this time.
"Yeah?" I rolled over and looked into all of his freckles. "What?"
Jeff answered, "It's the one about laying down to sleep and praying, and, if I die before I wake up, then God comes and takes me away."
I just looked at Jeff. I didn't think it was fair that anyone with all those freckles and only a little older than me should have to worry so much about dying but I didn't know what to tell Jeff, so I just asked him, "Do you really believe that?"
Jeff looked very serious, "I'm afraid it's like magic, and, if I say it, it's going to happen. You've got to promise not to tell anyone. Promise?"
Jeff fell asleep, and then I couldn't sleep. Now when I can't sleep, I just lie there and think and think about sleeping. For a long time after Mommy died, I'd stay awake trying to see her and then figure out how I'd get her back or what I'd do without her. Now, as soon as I get sleepy, Imogene, the baby starts crying, and I get up and go hold her or change her so Daddy won't have to wake up and not be able to do good surgery the next day.
Daddy said he wanted to name her "Cynthia" same as my mommy's name, but he wouldn't because it was not good to "go against a dead person's wishes." I mean Daddy wasn't saying Mommy was still wishing it, because Mommy wasn't alive anymore and couldn't "wish" anything, but, you know, he meant before she died.
But the night Jeff fell asleep, and I couldn't, I remembered another time once before when I had a bad dream and couldn't sleep and I went downstairs and looked for my mom. She was on the white couch and had on my dad's long blue Georgetown sweatshirt that she could wear without pants because it was so long and she was so short. She had her knees tucked up to her chest like a little girl and was sort of hugging herself. She saw me and smiled. I remember she had on a light blue bow, and her hair was so black it shined like marble. I thought she looked just like Snow White in a Georgetown sweatshirt. I had a big crush on Snow White and Sally Stephens who looked like Snow White too. Sally sits right in front of me at school still and she says she likes me, and, when she smiles, I think of my mom and cry inside.
Daddy was sitting on the couch too and he was rubbing her tummy under the sweatshirt. Mommy was pregnant.
Now I have a baby sister I never needed, and I don't have a mom. She died when my sister was born. Like a trade, I guess. I love Imogene. I change her diapers sometimes and hold her a lot. I help out because Dad has his hands full. Mrs. Martinez comes to do laundry and take care of Imogene while I'm at school and Dad's at the hospital. I hope he doesn't marry Mrs. Martinez. She's pretty nice but she's kind of fat and not pretty like my mom. Mrs. Martinez has lots of kids. She brings Francisco and Andres by to play with me sometimes mostly because she has nobody to watch them. Mrs. Martinez's husband On Hel died in war. Andres says he was a big hero. He says On Hel means "angel" in Spanish, and that now his daddy's a "real angel with Jesus." I just don't say anything.Jeffy still visits a lot. He's okay. I wish Darlene could have married my dad's stepbrother Brad instead of Fred who's such a jerk and makes Jeff and my aunt go to church three times a week. But Brad's gay, and there are some things I just can't do anything about, and angels die and stuff.