October 25th.

Oct 24, 2014

Tomorrow (October 25th) is my cousin's would-be 23rd birthday. It seems like this date sneaks up on me every year and then everything floods back into my mind about Ally and what happened 12 years ago. 12 years. Just typing that seems strange to me. Has it really been that long? It doesn't seem possible that it's been over a decade since I've seen her or talked to her but here we are. On the eve of a day that should be celebrated, yet I know all too well that instead I'll be bringing balloons and flowers to a gravestone up next to the tree line in Cassville Cemetery. I can feel the lump in my throat now just thinking about it.

Ally was my age and we grew up together for the first 10 years of our lives. She was technically a year older than me but we were in the same grade and knew the same people. We always went to Nana's house as a pair and we seemed to always be right there next to each other when something went down. At least that's how it was when we were really little.

We went to different schools, she and I, and soon she started hanging out with people that I didn't know and doing things that I didn't agree with - even as a fourth grader, I knew something wasn't right. I pushed everything aside though and ignored the things that I knew about and didn't agree with because I just thought maybe she was growing up faster than me and getting to certain stages in her life before me because of her "go get em" attitude.(Plus she was a whole year older than me ya know. That 12 months meant a lot more back then.) I was the opposite of Ally. She was loud and liked to take charge and be the center of attention. I preferred the sidelines. I've always been more of an observer than a participant. So I just assumed that some of these differences explained some of the crazy things she did. I never thought twice about it.

Obviously, now I know different. Now we all do. But it doesn't really matter though, does it? Not now that she's gone. We all learned very quickly that there was something buried deeper inside of her than any of us had a clue of. (That I know of anyway - keep in mind that my memories of this event are coming from a 10 year old frame of mind.) The events that happened on that night seem like such a ridiculous blur to me. I can literally tell you in a few lines what I remember of the whole night:

It's a Friday night and me and my sisters and cousin (Ally's older sister) are all at my house playing and trading Halloween candy. 

The phone rings - my moms face turns whiter than a sheet in less than half a second (or so that's how it seemed to me)

We all got ushered into moms minivan but before we even make it out of the neighborhood my mom turns the van around, deciding we (the kids) shouldn't be at my aunt and uncle's house while the paramedics are still there. 

There's about an hour after this that I just don't remember at all. Except I do remember seeing my dad cry for the first time. It scared me. I'd never seen him cry like that before and it made everything all too real. 

Fast forward who knows what amount of time and I see my aunt and Uncle on the front porch of my house with a look in their eyes I'd never seen on anyone before and tears on their faces. Both of them in complete shock. Unsure what to do. What do you do when you've suddenly lost a child? 

Fast forward again and I'm at my Nana's house with my older sister and the same cousin who was at my house earlier that night. I don't remember the hour+ drive to get there or what made us go with Nana in the first place. Did our parents suggest it? Was it our choice? Did Nana insist we come with her? I couldn't tell you. It had to have been the middle of the night at this point but all of my sense of time from that night has been totally lost in my memories. 

And that's it. Just like that, she was gone. I no longer had my cousin who had always been more like a sister to me. There would be no more tag teaming our parents or our little sisters to get our way. No more trips to Nana's (not together anyway - I took a few solo trips over the years before I finally started bringing friends along with me). No more petty little fights over ridiculously minor issues that seemed major to our 10 year old maturity levels. No more sharing clothes or having someone to tell secrets to. She was just gone.

Florida Vacation with the family - me and Ally are the ones in the 2 piece suits (that are on backwards) ;)

And now, tomorrow, what would (should) be Ally's 23rd birthday I will go to her grave - as I have every October 25th since that night and I will celebrate it by having a conversation with her in the comfort of my thoughts. Only hoping she can hear me. I will leave flowers in the round hole on her gravestone that is meant to hold them, and her older sister will bring her a balloon. Some years we've brought gifts, others we haven't, but always the balloon and the flowers. Such a tragic tradition to keep, but sometimes life is just that - tragic.

See you tomorrow Ally.

Happy Birthday.


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