The faded blue summer sky highlighted the heat for Amanda’s friends and her to play in today. Hide and seek, running through sprinklers and drinking from the hose would be a part of their play time. Only children appreciate carefree days like this. Amanda loved to play outside. Each year her light blonde hair would turn almost white by summer’s end. Her four friends of similar age and an equal mix of boys and girls helped her enjoy summer days.
Before Amanda I had never noticed how present the sound of silence was even with noises of children playing outside. The silence was often shattered by the ominous sounds of police and ambulance sirens and my daughter’s reaction to them. The sirens would startle Amanda every time. She would drop to her knees, cover her ears with her hands, and scream and cry with a similar eerie sound of the sirens that excited her fears.
Dan and I adopted Amanda when she was almost two-years-old. Her mother and father were killed in a car accident and she was the only survivor. Amanda’s paternal family was limited, and while we kept her paternal grandparents in her life, they too were stolen from her life before she was four years old. She doesn’t seem to have much of a memory of them now, but we keep photos of them and her parents in a collage-type frame on her bedroom wall. Her family didn’t leave her life voluntarily, so Dan and I decided keeping their memory close to her was the right thing to do. She doesn’t ask questions about the pictures, and we haven’t talked much about them so far. Life has a way of helping you know when to do something, and Dan and I were waiting for the prompting.
“Mom!” her voice startled me while lost in thought.
“Yes. What?” I responded as calmly as possible.
“Can we all have a popsicle? It’s hot outside.” She asked with an excitement I admired.
“Of course. Trash, and I mean all trash, better make it to the trash when you are done.”
“Okay.” She ran out the door to give the good news to her friends.
Dan and I always keep a stash of popsicles in the freezer in the garage for Amanda and her friends. It is a cheap treat and helps keep Amanda and her friends close to home. Dan threatens to quit buying them often because he is always cleaning up the trash they leave behind. Someday they will learn. I hope.
“I see my words fell on deaf ears again, Megan.” Dan says in a playful tone while coming in from the garage.
“I will check on them in a few, and make sure they put their trash in the trash” I assured him.
“Don’t forget to look behind the bushes. They are great at hiding it there.”
The twinkle in his eyes always made my heart melt. I wish he could have passed those eyes onto a child for us to have together, but God had a different plan for us. Amanda was our plan, and what a wonderful blessing she was to our family.
“I need to go into the office for a bit. Are you okay to watch the kids? After I check on the trash of course.”
“That’s fine. I talked to Seth’s dad a moment ago and his wife did the same thing. Stuck him at home with the kids that is.”
“I am so glad the men of today can handle the responsibility” I teased.
“Very funny” he said while kissing me goodbye.
His truck was blocking my car in the garage, so I guess I’ll be driving that today. It is silver, with chrome trim, and in perfect condition. The truck is five years old, and with the exception of the body style, looks brand new. I always worried damage would happen when I was driving it. I hated having that responsibility.
“Amanda” I yelled. Did you guys throw your trash away?”
“I think so” she replied.
“Then why do I see wrappers and sticks on the porch?”
“Sorry Mrs. Helton! I will do it right now” Johanna offered to save her friend.
I watch Johanna scurry to keep her friend out of trouble. Her hair was black, straight and as long as Amanda’s. They were best friends and I could see their friendship lasting a lifetime. Just as I started the truck sirens in the distance sounded. I looked towards my daughter as she was quickly paralyzed with fear. Suddenly she ran into the back of the garage, cowered to her knees and started screaming. I shut off the truck and ran to be with her.
“Amanda Honey. It’s okay. Those sounds won’t hurt you” I said while wrapping her in my arms and rocking her calmly.
Just then Dan came running into the garage, and her friends stood at the garage opening. They all looked confused and concerned just like the other times this had happened. The noise kept getting louder, so we knew they were going to stop close to our home.
“Hey princess…. it’s okay” Dan offered while rubbing her back.
As luck would have it the emergency vehicles came to the house across from ours. Amanda’s eyes had a new and elevated fear that her voice could have never matched. We watched patiently as men jumped out of their vehicles to get inside our neighbors home.
“Henry is in trouble so these guys are just here to help” I said to Amanda.
Amanda’s friends slowly inched closer to her while watching the paramedics and police scramble outside. We all watched in silence except for Amanda’s cries. She had never spoken when the sirens made her scream, and when the sounds ended, life simply resumed as it had before. But not this time. This was too close for life to go on once the sounds were over.
After what seemed like forever, but really only six minutes, we watched the paramedics bring our older neighbor, Henry, out of his house while secured on a stretcher. They were talking to him, but we couldn’t hear anything they were saying.
“Amanda” I said softly. “Let’s move closer to our driveway so you can see he is okay.”
I picked her up while I stood to walk out of the garage. Dan and her friends followed my lead. We were all worried about Henry so getting closer seemed to be the right thing to do. After putting Henry in the ambulance, and shutting the doors, my daughter’s voice finally found life.
“He is dead?” she asked through sobs.
“No princess” Dan said. “he is just sick somehow and they are here to help him.”
The lights came back on for the ambulance and quickly drove away.
“He will never come back.” Amanda said.
“Of course he will” I said.
“That’s not what that truck does! They leave and never come back!” Amanda yelled while squirming out of my arms and running inside.
“Sorry guys. Come back in a couple of hours. She just needs some alone time with this happening today” Dan told her friends. They all left quietly with their heads down.
Dan and I walked inside and up the stairs to Amanda’s room. As expected, she was in her room, with her purple comforter pulled over her head. Quiet sniffles let us know she was still really upset. We reached her bed and I half-balanced myself on the limited available space on the side of her twin bed. Dan stood beside me.
“Amanda” I said softly.
“What” she asked while sucking snot through her nose.
“Let’s talk about what just happened outside, okay?”
Her comforter tossed in the air abruptly, and she sat up with attitude in her arms while continuing to push the covers for her bed away.
“Tell us what you are feeling so we can help you” Dan said.
“He is never coming back!” she yelled again.
“Amanda, I have been in an ambulance before and I am still here. Just because you get help doesn’t mean you don’t come back” I offered.
“Well, maybe you weren’t in the one I just saw.” Her eyes showed a defiance to the comfort I tried to offer.
“No, but an ambulance comes when there is an emergency. If you need more help they take you to the hospital, and when you are better you get to come home” I said.
“That’s a lie!” she screamed.
“Let me try” Dan offered while signaling he wanted to sit down. Reluctantly I got up.
“Hi princess. I want you to try to listen to me, okay?”
Amanda nodded in response. Admittedly I was annoyed she seemed more willing to listen to him.
“A long time ago, before you were even two-years-old, you were in a serious car accident with these people.” Dan took the frame of pictures off of her wall and pointed to Amanda’s mom and dad.
“Do you remember who they are?” Dan asked.
“Yes, you guys said they were my family first” she answered through a shaky voice from crying.
“Yes. See, this woman is your birth mom. And this guy is your birth dad. Kind of like Mom and I now, but you came from these two people. A truck, a big truck, hit the car you and your first family were riding in. It was a really bad accident.” Dan paused to allow what he was telling her to sink in. I then moved to sit at the foot of her bed so she could see me too.
“The truck hit the front of the car and you were in the back seat. Someone called 911 and the police and ambulances came to where your family was at. Your mom and dad were taken away in a different ambulance than you were taken in. But all of you were transported to the hospital from the accident.”
Amanda sat quietly as though she was living the details he was giving her. Almost like there was a new memory sparked inside of her.
“The doctors tried really hard at the hospital to save your mom and dad. Unfortunately the accident was really bad, and their injuries couldn’t be fixed. Your first mom and dad died that day, but they really didn’t want to leave you. We believe they worked with God in Heaven to help us find each other.”
“I don’t understand” Amanda finally said.
“Your mom and I adopted you because your mom and dad had to go to Heaven. People can raise children whose parents had to leave and it’s called adoption. Megan and I couldn’t have children together, but we were lucky to find you when you needed a family. You went away in an ambulance and you are still here. Megan went into an ambulance when she had a scary diabetic attack once, but she got better and came home too.”
“Amanda, I am so sorry your first parents had to go away.” I said.
Amanda looked down at the pictures and said “I barely remember them. I am not sure that I do.”
“You were really young. But, you do remember that day. Somewhere deep inside you remember, and that is why you get so scared when you hear sirens. They bring back the fear and confusion you suffered the day of your accident” I answered.
“This is a lot of information we are giving you, but we wanted you to have this truth so you can understand what is happening later on” Dan said.
“We love you so much. If you have any questions you just need to ask them. Today, tomorrow – whenever. Okay?” I said.
Amanda nodded and wiped her eyes and nose with the tissues Dan handed her.
“So I have two moms and two dads?” she asked.
“Yes” we replied in unison.
“Are you okay?” Dan asked.
“Ya. I guess I am okay” she answered.
“Do you want me to see if we can find Henry at the hospital? So you can see he is okay?” I asked.
“He is not coming home” she said flatly.
Dan and I both sat confused about what to say next.
“I know that look. I don’t know why. I know that look. He was sad as he said goodbye to me with his eyes. Maybe my other mom and dad had that look?”
“Sweetie, from what we know about what happened… you would not have seen them on the stretcher or going into the ambulance” Dan said.
“I just know that look. Can I go play now?” Amanda asked.
“Of course.” I said. Dan and I were both surprised by the abrupt ending to the conversation.
Amanda was quick to run down the stairs and out the door. Her friends came back over quickly and they enjoyed the rest of their summer day. I never went into the office. Instead we grilled burgers and hotdogs, and tried to make the hours as happy as possible. Amanda seemed okay. I was amazed how so much drama could be tabled by a child. If only adults could keep that craft in their older years.
That night, while I was brushing my teeth, Amanda came into the bathroom and sat on the toilet seat lid. After wiping my mouth I turned to look at her.
“I dream about them. I didn’t know who they were. I had their picture so I thought that is where they came from. In my dreams.” She said.
I smiled. “Are you okay?”
“I guess I am happy to know who they are. I remember a little I think. I think I remember her looking at me in the car. I remember that look. Her eyes. I always thought it was a dream.”
“Well, it might be a bit of both. Our minds are funny that way.”
“Maybe” she said while hopping off the lid. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight” I smiled while she walked away.
After Dan fell asleep I got up to read the articles and information we had about her family and the accident. I hadn’t noticed a line on the police report until reading it now. “The little girl was very confused, but not confused at the same time. Only 22 months old and she said “mom and dad said goodbye.”
I dropped the papers and cupped by hands around my mouth. I started to cry. This poor little girl I thought.
The next day Henry’s son was at the house. Dan and I went out to ask him about Henry, and hoping Amanda was wrong. Amanda was close behind us.
“Hi. We watched what happened yesterday. Is Henry okay?” I asked while expecting the worst.
“He is doing better and inside resting now. Is this little girl Amanda?” he asked.
“Yes” I replied confused.
“My dad asked to talk to her if I saw her. Is she okay to go inside now?”
I looked down at Amanda and she was already walking toward Henry’s front door.
“It’s open” he said. “He is on the couch just inside the door.”
Amanda walked in and somehow Dan and I knew we were supposed to wait outside for her. Inside, Amanda walked slowly toward the couch where Henry was waiting to see her.
“Hi” she said quietly.
“Well Hi to you too. Sit. I won’t break” Henry replied.
“Are you better now?” Amanda asked while sitting.
“I am thanks to you” Henry offered angelically.
“Yep. Thanks to you I had one more job to do” Henry said. “Your family in Heaven needed you to see sirens weren’t a bad thing. They love you and wanted me to tell you that. They are sorry they couldn’t come back after the sirens.”
Amanda started to cry. Finally she offered “Thank you. I am glad you are doing better. I was worried yesterday.”
“Me too” he replied while Amanda was walking out the door to see us.
Our daughter told us what happened with Henry. It only served to warm our souls to learn Henry died that night peacefully in his sleep. Thank God he had the energy for that one last job to do. Thank God her parents are still by her side too.