I was four. It was the middle of the day. My mother had just taken a shower. Her hair was wrapped in a towel. I want to say that it was maroon.
The pediatrician came to the house. I opened the door. I liked him. His name was Dr. Gleason. I was surprised to see him at outside his office. I think he shook my hand.
He said something to my mother in a low voice. She dropped her head to her hands and started to cry.
I followed the doctor into the kitchen, where he called my dad at work. I asked him what had happened. He squatted down to my level and told me that my brother had gone to sleep for a long, long time. I asked him when he was going to wake up. He said in a long, long time. I don’t know what I already knew about death, but I was scared to go to sleep for months afterwards.
I looked out the window and saw my father parking our car in front of the house. It was a black sedan, with a rounded top that looked like a beetle. It was the house on Mason Lane, before we moved into junior faculty housing.
When my father came in, the doctor spoke to him. My father put his head in his hands. The doctor joked with me, and then left. I stood for a long time between my parents, both of whom had their heads in their hands. My mother’s hair was still wrapped in the towel.
I knew that Kenny had gotten sick and was in the hospital. I didn’t know that he was developmentally delayed, only that he was my sweet baby brother who laughed a lot, a big, bubbly, drooling laugh. Not too long before, I had been jumping up and down on the bed. Every time I landed, he would bounce a little bit beside me, and he laughed and laughed. Then I fell, BAM!, to the ground, and my nose was broken, and I was bleeding, and Kenny kept on laughing.
I don’t remember the days immediately following his death, what I did, what my parents told me. There was a memorial service, presided over by my best friend’s father, who was a minister, at a church we did not attend. My father did not believe in religion; he was a scientist, he said, and required empirical evidence. I wore an itchy dress, and fidgeted in the pew beside my mother. I don’t remember what my best friend’s father said, or what we did after. I don’t remember my parents ever talking to me about Kenny after that, though perhaps they did.
He was my constant companion, and my brother. There are pictures of us in a sandbox together, in a tub, on a couch. He is always smiling. What did I feel when he was suddenly gone? How does a four-year-old grieve? How does she make sense of death? This I do not remember.