As he watched everyone below, he knew he had to stay around. Just for a while. If it was possible. He realized he knew nothing about any of this as the tremendous weight pressed down on his mind. This was it. It was his time. The numbness cleared and a peaceful quiet spread through his body.
He felt someone take his hand. It was a little hand, and a quiet voice asked, “Is that your mommy?”
He looked down and saw a little girl, around six years old, with her almost white curls pulled back high by a pink-polka dot bow, looking down at his mother in wonder.
“Yes, it is.” He said, choking back the sadness.
“Why is she crying?”
“She misses me, I guess.”
She looked up at his face, and her bright blue eyes were questioning.
“Why are you crying?”
“I know I can’t do anything to help her. I miss her already.”
The little girl crossed her arms, looking down at his mother with a sad pout.
“I miss my dog, Shelby.”
He glanced down at the top of her bow and a smile tugged through his sadness.
“What’s your name?” he asked, quietly.
“Haley Margaret Jenson,” she stated proudly. “What’s your name, Mister?”
He waited a moment before answering, watching the scene unfold below them. He was overwhelmed with an immense sadness, for his parents and of course, for himself.
“Todd,” he said. “Todd Michael Thomas.”
“What do they call you? I have a little friend down there. His name is Brady. I watch over him sometimes. He gets sad. Really sad. His parakeet died.”
He smiled, looking down at her. “They call me Todd. Or Toddo..well that’s my dad and my brother who calls me that. My mom calls me Todd.”
She nodded her head, her white curls bouncing as she leaned forward to get another look below.
“Is that your daddy?”
She turned toward him, and cupped her hand as if to tell a secret. He smiled at that, knowing that no one can really hear her. At least no one down on earth.
“He’s drinking, you know.” Her eyes were bright with a knowing sadness.
He just nodded.
“He’s been drinking since last night.”
“My daddy and mommy used to drink all the time.” Her voice was a confused whisper. “I just don’t understand how sodas can make you act that way.” Then she shook her head, and continued talking out loud. “I wasn’t allowed to drink sodas. Daddy got mad at me one time when I drank his soda.”
A sad look crossed his face. She slipped her hand inside his again.
“Michael told me to come see you,” she whispered. They both turned to look at the man standing in the corner, a white robe and a blue book in his hand. He waved a white feathered pen at them, nodding and smiling sadly.
There was a billow of clouds passing below them, changing colors and he could hear the whispers of people long gone from the earth. His heart swelled with the fact that, although he really wasn’t sure what was happening, he was not afraid.
“Why is she holding you? Doesn’t she know?”
He was watching his mom intently, feeling the tears, as the whisper of her arms holding him drifted away. He watched her move down the hall and stand along the wall, sitting down. He saw a medic sit by her side.
“She was saying ‘good-bye.’” His voice choked as he spoke.
So they sat there on a wall of clouds, watching as one by one, his family came to the house. Only his aunt and uncle at first, and then his brother and his wife. He watched as a heaviness filled his heart and he felt a familiar tug of longing. He hadn’t felt that in a very long time. He wanted to be there with them. He didn’t want this to be happening. As tears began to swell, and anger and resentment bubbled, he felt a firm hand on his shoulder and heard a deep voice, not unlike his brother’s voice, say, ”It was your time,Todd.”
As Haley rested her head against Tom’s arm, he heard the voice again, that sounded much like his own voice now.
“That’s the first time she’s slept since she’s been here,” the man spoke again, nodding towards the little girl. This was the strangest thing. People appearing out of nowhere, just like in the movies.
The man standing next to him was so very tall, with a barrel of a chest and familiar laughing eyes. Todd twisted to get a better look at the man’s face. He didn’t know him, had never met him, but he recognized him immediately. The soft golden eyes, the silverish yellow hair that glowed in the sunlight- a male version of his mother.
“She’s going to be all right, you know. She doesn’t know that and she won’t feel it for a while. She’s going to miss you for a very long time. Actually forever.”
He nodded down at Todd’s father, who was already sitting on the couch in the living room, the suddenness of his world turning up-side down changing his heart forever. “He’s going to have a rough time. But he’s a good man, and he will get through. I’ve been watching you and your brother for a very long time. I’m proud of the way your mom has raised you. Things will work out for them, but they aren’t going to know that for a very long time. But there are things I can teach you…to help make it better for them.”
From nowhere, the man pulled out a red baseball cap. It had the emblem of the Washington Senators, the older version of the current Washington Nationals baseball team, the heart of the family.
“I’ve been wanting to give this since that day when you first picked up a bat and ball.”
He adjusted the hat on his grandson’s head. “How old were you, about 4?”
Todd nodded and watched as his grandfather, whom he had heard about but never met, sat next to him and he heard the pop of a beer, as Grandpa Carl started sipping on the can.
“It’s ok. Toddo. It’s non-alcoholic.” His eyes twinkled. “A man’s gotta have his fun, right?
Toddo. I kind of like that name.”
So they sat next to each other, Haley on his one side, Grandpa Carl on the other. Together they watched the events unfold in the Earth world below.