AuthorView-Birth Order

Author View By: Ken White

“Birth Order”

Dedicated to my sibs Gary and I rode our bikes home after school. I stopped at his house, like I did every day. Gary was unlocking the front door when we heard the phone ringing inside the house. Gary got the door open, rushed in, and grabbed the phone. “Hello,” he said and listened. He turned to me and held out the phone. “It’s your mom.” I went numb inside. “Hi, Mom. What’s up?” “You need to come home. The ambulance just took your father to the hospital.” My dad was on the second floor of City Hospital downtown. It was the same hospital and same floor I had been on when I had ruptured my spleen last February. The smells and sounds brought back all kinds of unpleasant memories, as we walked down the hall to my dad’s room. He smiled as all six of us trooped in. He looked pretty good, considering. “Hey, here’s my brood,” he said to the nurse, who shook a thermometer and then slipped it into his mouth to take his temperature. “Handsome family,” she said. “It is,” he mumbled around the thermometer. She checked her watch, removed the thermometer, and glanced at it. “Now, promise me you won’t get too excited, Mr. Wright,” she said. “I promise,” my father said, as he crossed his heart. She left and us kids flung ourselves at our father, smothering him in hugs and kisses. He returned the affection, like a puppy let out of its cage. “That’s enough,” my mom said gently. “Let him breathe.” We all backed away and moved to wait by the window. As I stood there, it hit me that he and Mom were the last links to our immediate history. When they were gone, they would take our collective memory with them. They were the only ones who remembered what had happened in our lives. Each event, every little detail. When they were no longer with us, if I wanted to know about anything that had ever happened, especially when we were kids, there wouldn’t be anyone to ask. About all those moments. They knew all the memories by heart. When they were gone, it would all be gone. And we’d be left to reconstruct them as best we could. I looked from my dad and mom to us kids, and realized we were standing in birth order. Oldest to youngest, left to right. The way we always did. “Funny,” I thought to myself. “We almost always stand in this order when we’re together.” I remembered a photograph of the family taken during some long-forgotten Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t recall if it was for The Modesto Bee, or the phone company newsletter. Mom and Dad stood in front of us. We stood in birth order, facing our parents, each holding a hand-made paper valentine. That photo made me think of one of our Disneyland trips. We were walking along the beach somewhere and my mom stooped to pick up an abandoned, rusted toy automobile. She started to cry. “What’s wrong?” I asked her. “Nothing,” she replied, then hugged me until I couldn’t breathe.

Comments

comments

Posted in: news

About the Author:

Chris's bio information.