By Kevin Bailey
I should write about what came before. Before Colton died, I mean. I know I wrote about the day it happened, but I haven’t written much about what he was like before that day. It’s hard to think about, but not because I don’t remember. It’s hard to think about it without crying, and I don’t like to cry. But I’ll write about it anyway.
I’ll start with the day the twins were born. (I’ve said before that it’s hard to think about the twins separately, so I guess most of my stories will be about both of them.) When they were born, I was three. No one believes I remember that day, but I do. The twins had pink and blue blankets–blue for Colton, pink for Kayleigh. I remember wondering how those pink and blue bundles fit inside Mama.
I was the first one to make them laugh. I had learned to cross my eyes, and I decided it would be a cool thing to show my new brother and sister. They were only a few months old, but when I made my “funny face” (they called it that when they got older) by crossing my eyes, pulling on my ears, and blowing up my cheeks, Kayleigh giggled.
Really, she did!
Colton turned his head and looked, and I made my funny face at him. He laughed even louder than Kayleigh! No one else was there, but I know: I was the first one to make them laugh!
Then there was the time, I dropped Colton right on his head! I was almost four, and thought I was a big girl. Mama (I called her “Mommy” back then) was in the kitchen, typing stuff on her computer while Isobel and I played with the twins on the couch. Just then, the twins made a big poop at the same time. (They did that a lot. I still haven’t figured out how.) I ran into the kitchen with my nose plugged.
“Mommy, they’re stinky!”
Mama laughed, “Have Isobel bring them here.”
I told Belle what Mama said. She picked Kayleigh up and took her to the kitchen. I thought, I’m a big girl too! I’ll take Colton in for Mommy.
I tried–really I did! I lifted him, but quickly realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as I hoped. Colton was squirmy (and quite grumpy from his poop); he started to tip over as I stumbled toward the kitchen. I rounded the corner, and he kicked his feet; I couldn’t hold him anymore. As she came back, Isobel tried to catch him, but she couldn’t. And Mama… I’ll never forget what her eyes looked like.
It was the same as when she answered the phone that day. You know the one I mean.
I said, “I’m sorry, Mommy!” over and over.
Daddy returned from building pools just then. Two of his girls, his wife, and both his babies were crying. Kayleigh was lying on the kitchen floor with a poopy diaper half off her.
It was definitely a crazy scene!
Daddy always said that’s what made Colton so silly. He’d say, “After all, Micki did drop you on your head when you were a baby!” I’d usually punch him when he said it. Not hard, though. Just a little punch.
I miss those days. I miss laughing, feeling good, and not being so tired all the time.
I know the days like that are gone, though.
But I promised to write about Colton’s life more, so I’ll try not to be so sad. I’ll write about the happy days: like the time the twins sang for Mama’s birthday—in front of the whole church!
I’ve got five more years to tell you about.
Daddy laid an egg. Well, I know now that he didn’t really lay an egg, but back then I thought he did. I was almost five, so the twins were close to two. Colton and I were in the basement with Isobel when Garrett ran down the stairs.
“Belle… Micki… come quick… Mama…”
He was breathing really hard!
“Mama brought home the Easter Chicken!”
Isobel didn’t believe him. She was already nine, almost as old as I am now. But she came with us, picking up Colton as we ran up the stairs. When we got upstairs, there was a huge chicken standing in our living room! He was bawk-bawk-bawking around the living room, while Emily was laughing and Kayleigh was hiding behind her. She always did scare more easily than Colton.
Colton squealed and ran right toward the big chicken! Mama swooped him up before he got there. I knew something was up, but I was little, so I wasn’t sure what it was. As the big chicken bawk-bawked around, he put his hands behind his bottom. He brought them back in front, and there were two Easter eggs in them: one for Colton and one for me. When the Easter Chicken gave me the egg, he winked over his beak. That’s when I knew it was Daddy.
I’d know that wink anywhere.
I started to speak, but he held his hand up to his beak as if to say, “Ssshhh…”
Colton was talking fast then. “Eesuh Shikun! Eesuh Shikun! Nuver egg! Nuver egg! Pweeze! Nuver egg!”
I don’t remember how many eggs Daddy laid that day, but he gave one to everyone. Kayleigh even came out from behind Emily; she poked a finger in the “Easter Chicken’s” eye! If Garrett hadn’t figured out it was Daddy yet, he did then.
Not too many chickens say “Dadgummit!” That was the worst swear word I ever heard Daddy say, until the day I saw him cry—but enough about that.
The twins ended up on the Easter Chicken’s lap. Colton tried to look in his beak, while Kayleigh was poking him. She knew that this “chicken” wasn’t all he was cracked up to be, but she didn’t know it was Daddy. Colton just thought this was a really big chicken though.
The Easter Chicken visited every year after that. He even visited us the Easter before Colton died. It wasn’t quite as exciting for me as the first time, because I knew it was Daddy and all. But I don’t think Colton ever figured out that there really wasn’t an Easter Chicken. He talked to Daddy in that silly chicken suit almost like I used to talk to Santa, back when I believed in him.
They never did tell Colton it was Daddy in the suit. I’m glad they didn’t, because the Easter Chicken was Colton’s favorite holiday character. And holiday characters aren’t nearly as fun when you know they’re not real. I think Colton still believed in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. He just always liked to make-believe about things, and he never figured out that the things we made-believe weren’t real.
But Kayleigh did: Mr. Jack was Santa, and Mama was the Tooth Fairy. Daddy was the Easter Chicken, and there were no monsters under her bed in the night. These are things she figured out. I think that makes it harder for her to think about Colton being in Heaven. You can’t actually see Heaven, so I think she’s afraid it might be make-believe.
I know how she feels. Heaven seems far away, when your little brother is there and you’re not. And when I have my bad thoughts I wonder if it’s make-believe. I don’t tell anyone those thoughts.
Not even Garrett.
They put my little brother in the ground. I saw that. But I can’t see all the way to Heaven. And I wonder if Heaven isn’t like the Easter Chicken: just make believe.
My head spins around with thoughts, and the pounding inside it gets worse.
I want to believe—I hope it’s true. But what if it’s not, and I never see Colton again? What if all there is are the times we have right here, right now, together? What if all there is, is living and dying, and some people die when they’re only six?
I don’t think the Easter Chicken will come back this year.
Lacey was Colton’s dog. Well, technically she belonged to us all, but Colton was her favorite, and I know why: he spoiled her. Colton was crazy about Lacey from the moment we brought her from the animal shelter four years ago. He fed her from his plate, and not just the gross stuff. He would feed her the good stuff, like a slice of Canadian-style bacon pizza, his favorite.
Mama tried to draw the line at ice cream.
When we went to the Dairy Queen over by Gnazzo’s grocery store, Colton wanted to get Lacey a Snickers Blizzard, which was his favorite. He said that was her favorite, too.
We soon found out how he knew.
Coming back from one of Garrett’s games, we stopped at Dairy Queen. We all chose our favorite: I had a hot fudge sundae, with nuts on top. Kayleigh had the same as me. (Mama says I used to imitate Isobel and Emily like that too.) Of course, Colton picked a Snickers Blizzard.
Dairy Queen isn’t far from our house so we waited to eat until we got home. We plopped onto the wrap-around sofa and began eating. We were all talking at once when Mama asked Colton a question. He wasn’t sitting with us.
Mama said, “Garrett, go see if he’s in your room. I don’t want him eating on the bed.”
A few seconds later, Garrett shouted down the stairs, “He’s not here!”
She had everyone spread out looking for him. I think Mama was worried we had left him at Dairy Queen. It wouldn’t have been the first time he got left somewhere, but I’ll write more about that later.
“I found him!” It sounded like Isobel’s voice was coming from the little wooded area back behind our house.
I ran to our backyard, and sure enough, there was Colton. He seemed to not notice his little hiding spot had been discovered. Sitting quietly in an open spot in the bushes, he was eating his Blizzard. But he was not alone.
Happily licking away at the ice cream whenever Colton removed his spoon, was Lacey. Our dog had a milk mustache on her nose!
When Mama got there, she wasn’t happy. She was so mad she even called him “Colton Randall”. Belle and I sat on the grass and laughed. And when Daddy got there, he laughed with us!
Mama called Belle, “Isobel Leigh” and me “Michal Noelle.” She even added a “Kayleigh Janae,” a “Garrett Jason,” and an “Emily Marie.” She gave Daddy the look that tells us even he is in trouble.
As we headed to the house, Colton told Mama that Lacey was his friend, and friends share.
“Like I learned in Sunday School, Mommy!”
She tried to explain that you shouldn’t eat after a dog, even if she’s your best friend. (It’s surprising how difficult that is for a four year old to understand!) The rest of us just tried to keep from laughing! We walked in the back patio doors, and Mama turned to look at us. We put on our best “serious faces.” But Lacey whined, we all looked at her, saw her milk mustache, and lost it again.
Think of it—a milk mustache on a dog!
Mama tried to keep from laughing, but she couldn’t. She set Colton on the counter to wash his mouth, and told him we’d buy Lacey a Snickers Blizzard from now on.
And we did—for the last two years, Lacey had Dairy Queen whenever we did. It became a family tradition.
Lacey hasn’t had a Snickers Blizzard for a long time.
I tried to give one to her the other day. I bought it with my allowance, took her to their spot, and tried to feed it to her.
She wouldn’t eat it. I guess only Colton could feed Lacey a Snickers Blizzard.
Garrett came out and tried to feed it to her, but Lacey wouldn’t touch it. Garrett and I sat and talked for awhile then. We talked about all the funny things that Colton used to do. We talked about the first day we discovered Colton and Lacey’s secret trips to woods for Snickers Blizzard treats–the day I just told you about.
We laughed a little. But even as we laughed and shared Lacey’s Snickers Blizzard, a thought came that made my headache worse, and made me feel very sad:
Lacey misses Colton, too.