Friday night was the Homecoming game for the Bulldogs, the high school from where my husband and I graduated and also our three children. Our daughters were in the band; Andrea played the saxophone and Vanessa was in the rifle and flag corp. and our son, Brandon, played football. There was the annual Homecoming parade this past Friday afternoon with the students getting an early release to either be in the parade or watch it. I have not been to the parade since Brandon was in school nor have I attended a game. The pain of “Friday night lights” is a glaring reality that I can hardly bear. Even though it had been almost 12 yrs. since Brandon’s last game when he passed, I can still see him in his position of Defensive Tackle in that imposing stance facing the “Giants”….I can see him on the sidelines wearing his football scowl, drinking in the roar of the crowd that seemed to energize him and the other Bulldogs…sweat drenching his face and his red and dingy white uniform….I can see his team on the field after the game and his dad and I looking for our son so we could get our sweaty, smelly, hug from our worn out boy. “Brandon we will see you at home. Be careful.” Always my words to him. He never went out after a game because he would always be too tired. Oh the hurt of remembering.
Our middle daughter, Vanessa, graduated in 1994 and her class was being honored this year. They decorated a float and rode in the parade. I had to go and work through it somehow… besides our granddaughter would want to see her mother in the parade. The energy was palpable as the sirens got closer and sound of the band, too. The fight song began just before the band reached us at a fevered pitch of percussion and brass. I could not stop the flow of tears….and as they began to sting my face….light drops of rain fell from the gray cloud that had been threatening between intermittent sun rays….my husband yelled out in jest, “Don’t rain on our parade!” My sunglasses hid the rain that welled up in my eyes…already my parade had been rained on even before it began. I managed to get through for my granddaughter’s sake. I would have to start gaining strength to get back into the school atmosphere of games and such since I have grandchildren who are involved in extra curricular activities.
Before the parade had finished, an old school friend, came over and spoke to my husband and me. He had lost his wife to breast cancer the year after Brandon passed away. I dared not mention it (I said to myself…this is a parade and I don’t want to bring up sadness…how foolish I was to think that…we are ALL sad and no parade will wipe it away)….I had not seen David since one of our class get-togethers a year before our own tragedy. He was grayer…even white headed…with a slight hunch…..a weary look…age?…or just life’s disappointments?…grief?…For some reason, I thought he had known about our son…why, didn’t everybody? Small town…breaking news….SUICIDE…”did you hear about?”…..”oh, no…not Brandon….he was such a nice kid”….No, not everyone had heard. David asked us if we had children and I said yes, “three.” He asked, “Are they around here?”…..”Yes, we have two daughters here and a son in Heaven.” His expression changed to one of concern and shock in an instant. He asked “How? What happened” (it is always the question when someone dies so young)….”Suicide.” I heard myself say. Then he proceeded to tell of three people he worked with who had died by suicide and that he had to deal with his son’s depression. He never elaborated…our idle chit chat dwindled and was drowned out by the passing trumpets…..we said our “goodbyes” and “good to see you again” and the rain pounded our shoulders and he ran off into the crowd onto the sidewalk…and disappeared. I wish now I had given my condolences about the loss of his wife. Brandon #60…GO! Bulldog!”