The most fitting starting point I can think of is actually an ending – my brother’s death. Amos was eighteen when he died. One year older than I am now. He was driving home from the winter formal, lost control of his truck, and collided head-on with the Millers’ white-picket fence. The Millers are probably the oldest residents of Hitchins. Mr. Miller served in the navy during World War II, returned to Hitchins, married his high school sweetheart, Ethel, and became a history teacher at Johnson County Public High School XVI. It was Mr. Miller that found my brother’s body. He said the site was the most terrible thing he had seen in his whole life. Coming from a World War II vet, I’d say that’s saying something about the severity of the crash. I was ten when Amos died. My brother, Matthew, was about to turn sixteen. Amos was buried on Matthew’s birthday.
Amos was the kind of person who you just knew would die tragically. He was not merely good at everything; he was great at it. Schoolwork was no chore, he was a gifted athlete, musical, and he had a handsome ruggedness that was all Father’s. Perhaps his only real struggle in life was in relating to his peers. He could talk for hours in church with the elders, spend an afternoon over coffee with his teachers, entertain me and my friends on weekends, but he never seemed to have many friends his own age. His peers were the only ones who didn’t seem too thrilled to be around him. Except Henry Ray. He and Henry were practically inseparable for the last year of Amos’s life.
I don’t remember much about the night Amos died, though I have tried to recall the events countless times. So much of that year is a blur. Whether that is due to the passing of time or my mind’s protection mechanisms is up for debate. I know I am the only one in the family that doesn’t remember the death. Mother says it was because I was young. I’m not sure I can accept that as a reason since Jamie Willits remembers everything from the day his grandpa died and he was only five. Maybe Jamie has a better memory than I do. Considering that his test scores don’t support this theory, I think that the error is in Mother’s assessment of why I can’t remember Amos’s death.
Seven years have passed since Amos died. Father has come to terms with Amos’s death. Mother is still sorrowful from time to time, but she no longer suffers from extended bouts of depression. Matthew is plagued by emotional turmoil. He was not on good terms with Amos in the preceding weeks to Amos’s death. He has never fully recovered. As for me, I find myself wandering to Amos’s grave more and more often. Something about Amos’s death makes me restless, but I don’t know what it is or why I feel this way.
Sometimes, when I am walking up the stairs to my room or spending time in the loft, my eyes glide over the picture of Amos at the winter formal – a picture that came three months to the day after his death. A picture that preserves him exactly as he was in my last memory of him alive – smiling and in one of Father’s old suits, the one Father attended his father’s funeral in, I think. Though the wake was closed-casket, I know that they buried Amos in that suit.
Amos doesn’t get mentioned by my family very often anymore. Mother lays flowers on his grave every year on his birthday and Father says a special prayer before dinner every year on the anniversary of his death, but those are the only times that Amos is acknowledged. And these instances never fail to draw a pained expression from Matthew, who continues to suffer silently, for reasons he refuses to share.
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