my aunt used to tickle my back to help me get to sleep when she babysat. she was twenty-one and madly in love with my uncle who followed her to arizona. they eloped in vegas and broke the news she was three months pregnant while they were home celebrating the nuptials. me and my little brother got to rip off the pretty paper that wrapped their gifts. my aunt told me she was going to hide me in her suitcase so i could fly back to phoenix with them that evening. i was six when they begged my parents to take me back with them for practice. they said no and made me go to my mum’s parents instead while they gave my aunt and uncle a ride to the airport. my grandma said that night i had a temper tantrum screaming and crying until i finally fell asleep wearing a red t-shirt and jeans.
my daddy and his new brother were playing a video game that seemed like it was never ending. it kept giving them more points and advancing them to the next level. my aunt wanted to get on stand by for the earlier flight and made them abandon the next play. when they got to the gate at detroit metro their mom took the last picture on the roll of the newly weds posed in front of the runway with their fists up so happy because a couple didn’t show up. the stewardess called their names and then the flight was full. twenty-one years ago today they got on a jet plane and never came back again.
grams and gramps never tried to find the two people who decided not to go on vacation. a three year old girl who sat on her mother’s lap was found under the wing of the plane by a paramedic nicknamed the cheerio king. she was the only survivor. six years later my gramps passed away on the youngest sons birthday. ironically grams died three years ago on the oldest sons birthday at her second home in arizona. my daddy is the middle one, my aunt was the baby. randomly an ex of mine was having a drink at a bar a couple days after grams funeral and had a conversation with the man who had been left behind. in the late eighties grams started a support group for the families of the victims who parished. they planted one hundred and fifty six trees around a marble monument that lists all the names upon the hill the pilot crashed into seconds after the eight forty six takeoff. every year after sunset they hold a candle lit vigil.