Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm not a child anymore...

For Beverly Jo Nelson

by live
(click above link to hear song)

...lightning crashes, an old mother dies
her intentions fall to the floor
the angel closes her eyes
the confusion that was hers
belongs now, to the baby down the hall

oh now feel it comin' back again
like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind
forces pullin' from the center of the earth again
I can feel it... the angel opens her eyes...
presents the circle
and puts the glory out to hide, hide...

Earlier on of my posts I queried, "When vampires who are nightmarish enter the scene then can't we see just how truly like humans they are--Can't humans be just evil? Nightmarish? Don't we have serial killers? People who murder for tiniest reason? [Don't believe me--I have a personal story there--another time perhaps?]"

Now is the time...

On March 19, 1981, my sister, Beverly Nelson, was found dead in a pool of her own blood at the Burgerville USA where she was the assistant manager. She had been beaten with a hammer and shot during a robbery. Four youths were sentenced for the crime--they were all under the age of twenty-one. She was just 27 years old. I was eight and can remember that day as if it happened 20 minutes ago.

That cold March day I sat blissfully at school unaware of the tragic news that would be there to greet me as I got off the bus. I aced my spelling test and that meant that I would be rewarded with a promised desire for having achieved my goal. Carol and Mel, my parents, put a high price on education and I intended to obtain every reward that I could. As I got off the bus that afternoon, my prized test clutched in my hand, I was happy and eager to tell my Mom the good news. It was all the proof that I needed to have my reward given to me...I was focused. I ran in to my grandparents' house [we were living with them so that my Mom could help my grandmother with tasks like cleaning and bathing], bursting with excitement but the soberness of the scene stopped me in my tracks. My Grandma sat at the kitchen table blankly staring at her hands. Her long snow white hair which was usually put into a neat bun at the back of her head now hung around her shoulders partially covering her face. My Mom sat opposite of her also staring blankly down at her hands. I started to panic. A barrage of questions quickly escaped my mouth.

"Mom? What's wrong? Is the baby [my sister Becky] OK? Rachel? Where's Grandpa? Is he OK? Is it Dad? Where's Dad?"

She stared at me as if some kind of pain was keeping her from speaking.

"Mom? Are you OK?"

She was nodding her head "yes" as she said, "The girls are fine. Grandpa's on the couch and Dad is at work."

Then what was wrong? I looked at my Grandfather, age had not taken his his hair nor its color, but his face was pale almost grey. He was a tall man to me but at this moment he seemed so small and frail. I knew that things were certainly not fine and I wanted to know what the matter was. In any case, I was eight and doing jobs around the house that most kids my age weren't allowed to do. I could handle this. It couldn't be so bad, could it? Maybe we were moving again? No, what ever it was couldn't be that bad.

I looked at my Mom again and pleaded for her to tell me exactly what was wrong. She stared at me for a long moment. If I wasn't so scared I might have continued on in my excitement not knowing the answer. My Mother's eyes began to water as she struggled to find the right words to tell me. She started and then stopped.

"Moni...Bev can't come for the family reunion this summer..."

This wasn't bad. Bev could come later with her husband and son. When I mentioned my thoughts my Mom hung her head. Looking back on this moment, I realize how hard this must have been for her. This was one of life's toughest blows and she had to explain it to an eight year old. How? How do you tell a child that someone she loved has died? Not just died but was brutally murdered over a small sum of money in a register. How would she even comprehend the words? The moments ticked by...I stared back...

I loved Beverly. She and my brother, Terry, came to our house when we lived in Washington. They were nice to my Mom even though they didn't have to be--after all, she was their stepmother. It was nice to have an older sister even though she was so much older than me. I always looked forward to the day when I could just talk with her like she would talk with my Mom.

I stared at my Mom waiting for the rest of her explanation. She made the choice to just tell me and be done with it.

"Beverly was...um...honey, Beverly...died today. Some men killed her"

It was a surreal moment. For me, it felt as though time had stopped for an instant. There were so many thoughts racing in my head that I couldn't hear anymore. They stared at me...waiting...and then somewhere in the pit of my stomach I heard a noise. Not just a noise but a scream. I was screaming. I dropped everything and ran out the back door past my Aunt Judy's house and down the road where my cousin Beth and her brothers were playing in a newly constructed fort. They laughed and yelled for me to come and play.

"Play?" I thought, "I don't feel like a kid anymore. How can I play?"

Of course they would be happy to play it wasn't their fault. I just wished that I could've been that happy and able to forget what had just stolen the innocence of my world. I rushed in to my own yard and slumped onto the swing. My tears rolled off my cheeks and down the red wool coat I wore. Red...blood...died...killed...

Soon I felt a hand on my leg. I don't know how long I sat there before Beth and Jason had come over to see me. Fumbling for the words, I tried to explain what was the matter, but I didn't know what to say and I'm certain that I wasn't making any sense to them. It didn't matter. They just sat there with me and let me cry. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done. Simple. Perfect and nice. We sat there until my Dad whistled for me to come back to Grandma's house. As I walked out of the yard and passed through the gate I felt a sense of urgency for my Dad. His loss was my loss. I ran to him knowing that if anyone could make me feel better it was my Dad. I threw my arms around him, clinging to him as if he would disappear, too.

"C'mon, Bev, it's getting cold out here. Let's go inside..."

Surely, I heard him wrong. I held his hand as we walked silently to the door. The house was eerily silent except for the low murmur of my Grandpa's voice as he spoke to my Dad or my sisters as they fussed. My Mom didn't need to ask me to set the table, automatic pilot set in and I put the silverware on to the table. As we sat at the table, the silence became louder. No one really ate. Moslty we picked at the food but went through the motions as if we did eat. The dishes of food were passed around as was the salt and pepper...

"Bev, pass me the peas." I looked at my Dad, perplexedly. This time I hadn't heard him wrong.

"Dad, I'm not..." but my objection was silenced by my Grandmother as she covered my hand with hers. When I looked at her, she just shook her head and smiled at me. I was devastated. Did he miss Beverly so much that he wanted her instead of me? Could he not see who I was? Questions and doubt clouded my mind as I cleared the table. I stood at the sink, mindlessly playing with the suds.

"Monica, you know that your Daddy doesn't wish you were gone, right?"

It was Grandma. My pain over my Dad's lack of recognition was written all over my face. I didn't understand why he would make such an obvious mistake.

"Have you ever seen pictures of Beverly as a child?"


"You look a lot like her. When your Daddy looks at you he can see Bev, honey. He hurts, maybe not in the same way you do, but he is hurting. He has to be strong and he doesn't want to cry. He wants to be strong for you, your sisters and your Mom. Don't correct him when he says your name wrong. When the time is right he'll find his way. Don't worry, honey."

It was three months before my Dad called me by my own name on a consistent basis. I wasn't allowed to go with my parents back to Washington state to Beverly's funeral. My parents felt that because she had been beaten with a hammer and there was an open casket, Beverly might not look like I remembered. It was better for me to not remember her like that lying in a coffin.

"Honey, it's only her body in that box not her spirit. You have a better memory of Bev in here..." my Mom said as she rested her hand on my head, "than you would if you saw her at the funeral."

I'm still not fully convinced that I agree with my parents decision. Do not misunderstand me, I fully comprehend why they made their choice but I simply wanted my chance to say 'goodbye'.

Bye, Beverly....save me a seat...

Ed Nelson, Beverly's husband once said this with regards to this tragedy:
" It was hard, he said, to learn how his wife had been brutally murdered. "It's not the life I dreamed of," Nelson said. "This may sound strange," he said, "but I believe there is a purpose for everything. There's something to be learned. I can't change the circumstances, but I can decide how I let it affect me. These are building blocks in my life. I didn't order them, but I'll be a better human being for it."

I hope I can always remember this. --MH

No comments: