A monumental shift in my timeline

Growing Grief
7 min readMay 27, 2021


Photo by Michael Walk on Unsplash

I remember the night clearly. The night I was told you passed away. I have kept you a secret from family and friends for years.

Soon after your passing, I wrote about you in an essay for a class assignment. You were my role model. You were simple, caring, and kindhearted. The 6th grade English teacher was moved by the story and asked if she could publish the story in the local newspaper.

“Sure.” (It was too much effort to care.) I didn’t look for the print; not sure if it ever went through. My teacher was sweet enough to give me a copy of the obituary section of the newspaper with your funeral information. It’s laminated, and I still have it. However, I think of that essay often. I wonder where it went and what it said. I wonder why you went.

I remember you behind the wheel from an early age. You were big in the oversized yellow bus. You almost always wore thick suspenders….your denim pants must have been too big. I guess they helped keep everything together when you had to occasionally repair the light bulbs in class.

You asked such common questions in the mornings and afternoons.

“How are you?”

“How was your day?”

That’s all I needed. I’m better now that you have asked.

I enjoyed sitting the near the front of the bus so I could talk to you. Year after year, you sincerely asked me about my day and listened to my response. Someone was finally encouraging me to talk rather than reminding me that I talked too much.

This interaction became more important to me as I transitioned from primary to elementary school. I remember you before then but am worried my imagination has created a timeline with supplemental memories.

After the school day was over, my classmates and I would wait in a single line against a brick wall. We had to wait until our bus number was called to start walking to the bus. Sometimes my shirt would get stuck to the rough surface as I leaned against the brick wall. It was always uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait to get on the bus. I remember my hair was often styled up like a tree. My mom dressed me in overalls, which were basically pants with permanent suspenders, so we had that in common. (I was basically Agnes from the movie Despicable Me.)

Like usual, I took that giant step onto the bus after a day of play and learning. There you were behind the wheel. Just like before. A familiar, happy face.

You made jokes, and you told me a story that I will never forget. You lost your index finger by picking your nose...It was a tragedy. I couldn’t believe it. “Could this happen to me? I have so many fingers I could lose.” You were only trying to “scratch your brain”. Your finger was so far up your nose, the fire department had to come saw it off. Well, maybe you were trying to tell me something about my own bad habit. Were my parents in on it, too? No, they didn’t know about you. Then again, your index finger was literally missing. I’ll stick to the story I was told. I remember being so shocked by the story that I didn’t get the chance to ask if you ever got the itch.

One day, you weren’t behind the wheel anymore. Did you tell me you were moving and I forgot? I didn’t understand, but I wasn’t worried and just knew I would see you again. Months past and the bus ride wasn’t like it used to be.

We lived in a small town and everything seemed close by. There came a point where I was ready to join my siblings and neighbors and walk home from school instead. I’ll probably beat the bus home anyway.

As we walk around the corner of a building and approach the crosswalk, I became filled with joy. I wanted to run. No….Jump!

Why didn’t my siblings tell me YOU became the crossing guard? They had been seeing you for months and didn’t even think to tell me!? Oh, right…. I had been keeping this one-sided friendship to myself. I don’t even think you knew I saw you as a friend.

Day after day. You were the person to ask me how I was feeling. You never seemed burdened by my talking. Even I was annoyed with hearing myself talk all day. Or maybe it was because everyone else seemed annoyed with me.

You gave me advice about being kind to myself and to look on the bright side. You somehow knew when I was having a bad day. You continued to tell jokes to help me feel better. These moments were only seconds or minutes. I was glad when traffic was busy and when there never seemed like a good time to cross. I was glad when there wasn’t a group of kids waiting to cross with me because I often felt like I needed to act calm and cool.

I just wanted to be asked how I was feeling. It didn’t feel like small talk. I don’t know why it was easy for me to talk to you. Maybe you were genuinely a nice person.

Despite living in a small town, I didn’t see you in the summers or during breaks. Not even at the grocery store. It seemed like our family was running into “everyone” any time we went out. People knew each other’s name. News traveled fast. We knew the cars and trucks in our neighborhood and who they belonged to.

But one day, I remember seeing you in the summer. I was playing basketball on a Thursday evening. I reached down for the ball, then as I rose back up, I saw your truck driving by. The same white truck that was parked by the crosswalk, where you sat while waiting for someone to use the crosswalk.

It was odd... I didn’t usually see you drive by. I wondered who you were visiting around our neighborhood. I remember feeling more confused than anything, but just like you do in a small town— I happily waved to you passing by. I’m not sure if you saw me, but I was glad I saw you.

I continued playing basketball, and by seeing you, I was quickly reminded that school was around the corner. I was excited and nervous because I was going into middle school the following Monday and this was “a big thing”. But something was off.

The next morning and afternoon are a blur. The day was overshadowed by the news I received that night.

I was on the couch laughing with my parents. We were probably laughing at the tv or my brother showing us his favorite dance move for the hundredth time, the “worm”. I was relaxed with my feet tucked under my bottom and my body was supported with my right arm and couch arm rest.

My sister ran into the living room from her bedroom. She blurted out the news without any hesitation.

“Oh my gosh! The bus driver just died!”

(We called him “the bus driver” since he had that job title longer than crossing guard.)

The laughter stopped. The room was quiet, and my parents didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know him. Why would they say anything?

I stayed in my position to act as if I wasn’t moved by the “gossip”, but I wanted to know more.

“Oh... Him? His name was [X]. How did he die?”

He was in a car accident, apparently. Two days before his birthday.

“Oh, okay. Well…I’m going to sleep already. Good night!”

I headed straight for bed confused and ready to cry. I thought to myself, “It doesn’t make any sense. I just saw you yesterday.

Was this a cruel joke? I never saw you in my neighborhood. I still don’t understand.

I cried into my pillow and wanted to scream. I must have been loud or maybe it was clear that I was upset in the living room. One of my parents opened the door to the bedroom and asked if I was okay. I stopped crying and didn’t respond. They closed the door. I’m not sure who it was, but I had wanted them to stay in the room.

The following morning, I felt awful and my eyes were puffy. I must have looked terrible the next day, but no one said anything about the death the entire weekend. It didn’t happen. It was just small town gossip.

The funeral was scheduled a few days later during the week. I knew I would be in class, but I had the courage to ask my parents if I could attend the funeral. They said yes.

The school announcements reminded the faculty of the day and time of the funeral, so I was aware of the time. I wanted to see you and the morning was dragging. I thought I was told I going to be picked up during lunch time…but no one ever came to pick me up. I wanted to run away from school to attend the funeral, but I was afraid of getting in trouble. I didn’t get to see you that day. I regret not running away, but at least I got to see you before you passed away.

Once I was legally allowed to drive, I was able to use the newspaper clipping that my English teacher gave me to locate the cemetery and find your burial site. I’ve only been to your burial site once to leave a note but have drive by the cemetery a few times with hopes of going in to visit you.

I can’t help but wonder how different my life would have been if you hadn’t passed away that day or if I had the proper means to cope with your passing. I felt sadness from your death during middle school and beyond. (Probably because I kept you a secret from friends and family.)

I’ve played the timeline in my head several times…trying to piece together when I first meant you to the last time I saw you. It’s like a movie at this point. But today, as I write about you, all the memories seem real.



Growing Grief

Writes here and there | Gets more excited about reading and commenting on your creative stories | Loves cheesy jokes