What happened to Shirley? Her brother was shot and she lived her life feeling shrapneled. I wish I could tell you her story. I’ll tell you what I know. He was the heir-to-be with a sunny smile for photographs and adoring sisters, the glory of his father’s eye, sent to play with a kid who frankly terrified him. Papa told him it would be OK. He may have said more. Whatever he said haunted him to his deathbed. His only son, the uncle I never met, was killed that day by the kid who thought it would be fun to point a gun. My Aunt Shirley was three. She took a turn. She watched her family recoil and thought it was from her; she felt she was being shot at and took to shooting back first. She got her own room while her sisters shared. She was catered to because she wouldn’t not be. Slinger of superficial insults and lethal compliments, wicked, hilarious, she could torpedo a romance with a casual “You’re wearing that?” and kiss the air. I know. It sounds trivial. A blameless boy was killed and these are the repercussions? And yet, Papa died delirious, pinned by something, screaming. And Grandma, who had life left to live without him, chose Shirley to live with, to make it all up to her and prove her love once and for all. So there were shock waves that shudder us grandkids still. Of course it didn’t work, Shirley and Grandma. They were both looking for apologies, enough to make you weep. Or else I’m wrong. When Grandma fled, she needed Shirley’s help to pack. She watched as Shirley upended drawers into cartons and packed clothes with her foot and thought: I have other daughters. I didn’t fail them all.

Copyright © June 11, 2007 David Hodges