Sunday, June 4, 2017

Flight of the Fireflies, Part Four

For the past couple of nights, I would turn the lights off in the kitchen and dining room and go to the window overlooking the backyard. I would cup my hands around my eyes and look out into the twilight. But I hadn't seen the fireflies since the night when we first saw the telltale streaks of ephemeral lighting shimmer over the grass and through the bushes. There was nothing there now. Except darkness.

Earlier in the day, my brother called to tell me they were taking my mom off fluids. I would have to fly back down to Florida. I didn't want to go, but knew I had to, yet postponed actually purchasing the ticket until the last possible moment.

The kids has finished their bowls of ice cream, brushed teeth, and were now in their beds. I read somewhere the best time to break bad news to kids was late in the day. Initially, I thought this sounded like a terrible idea, but the more I thought about it, it started to make sense. Worst case they could just cry themselves to sleep. Better than ruining their whole day. And let their subconscious work it out in the dreamworld.

I sat on the floor in their room and told them I had to go back down to Florida. We had recently told them Nanny was in the hospital but it's hard to tell how much they know or understand. Undoubtedly, more than we give them credit for.

"Remember how I told you Nanny was sick in the hospital?"

Elise heard me from our room and came in then, climbing the bunk bed and curling up next to Sam.

They nodded their heads slowly.

"Well...she's not getting better."

Peter asked, "Is she going to die?"


"Tell her 'hi' from me," Clementine chirped.

"Tell her 'bye' from me," Peter said before his face melted in sorrow, heavy with tears.

I leapt into bed next to him and wrapped him up, him in his all-black pajamas that makes him look like Steve Jobs or a ninja. I held him next to me and we sobbed. I hadn't cried this hard since January the year before in the kitchen at Elise's parents house when I first understood how serious it was. When words like "terminal" and "stage IV" are thrown about. Words you know but have never really had to use, so you look them up in the dictionary because their meanings are important now and you hope to find some nuance or prescience in their definitions, as though by defining these words you can parse the future from them.

Elise held Sam, and he and Clementine quickly fell asleep.

I walked back into the dining room and sat down. Elise came a few moments later and hugged my shoulders. I looked out the window.

It was still dark. No fireflies.

In the end, they only came by one night. It's better than not having seen them at all, but it's hard not to think maybe this spring was too much for them or to find some other meaning in their absence. Hopefully, they'll come back next year and stick around longer for the new tenants. Us? We'll be long gone. Headed, I hope, for greener pastures. With or without fireflies. Though something tells me I'll see them again.

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