john bryant and i sat in trigonometry, baffled as usual.
our big joke was to pretend that this was german class, so everytime mr. hamblin would say something about a tangent, john would nudge me and say 'those crazy germans, they have such weird words.' and i'd laugh not because it was funny but because i loved john secretly and horded any bit of a jokey connection between us.
our principal entered. he called my best friend, sunny's name. she gave me a 'what the fuck?" look on her way out. john and i watched her go and then gave each other the same look. sunny was a good girl, if she got called to the office it was bad news.
bad news ain't the half of it. her two year old neice, debbie, drowned. debbie lived with sunny and her parents because her mom was a flake. today, the mom decided that the best place for a cranky baby in utah november, was the waterfall up ogden canyon. debbie lost her footing and fell over the edge.
my first funeral. sunny took me by the arm, tear streaked but somehow beatific, she said 'go see debbie, see how peaceful she looks. it'll make you feel better.' i had a feeling this wasn't true but i went anyway. all i can say is a two year old in a casket was and is the saddest most awful thing i've seen.
fifteen years later, i arrived in utah for my mother's wedding to a phone call from sunny. she remembered that john bryant had been close and wanted me to know that he recently died of lung cancer. he never even smoked. sweet awesome handsome john. i looked up his inscription in my year book- 'to my german buddy. i couldn't have made it without you. you better call me this summer or i'll die."
the next morning i awoke to another phone call. my grandmother calling to say that my grandfather had just died. he was still in bed and she needed my mom and me to come right away, before she called the coroner. my grandfather's body is the first i've seen since debbie.
i went outside and called my mother's eight sisters, in town from all over the country for her wedding, and told them that their father was dead.
the man who walked me down the aisle when my own dad failed to show for my wedding wouldn't live to walk his own daughter. his air force uniform, freshly cleaned for the festivities would be his burial suit. he would have a full military funeral with a twenty one gun salute and taps and a jet fly-over. he would've been damn proud.
he was buried next to his own father, for whom, years earlier, both he and my dad were pallbearers.
now, they're all gone into that good night. gently, i hope.