When the moving trucks rolled away and the wedding party was over, all that was left was the three Maloney kids, three Steil kids, and two newlywed parents.
That and an unfamiliar house, new school, new city, new life. I imagine that I was a tad apprehensive, but Matt and I were each introduced to some local Stoney Point children our age, and somehow that summer turned in to one of the best summers we have ever had. My parents wisely purchased an unlimited family pool pass, and nearly every afternoon was filled with trips to Cherry Hill pool.
That summer drifted to fall, and the pool was replaced by football games, bonfires, and our new school. Middle school whirred by, and suddenly it was high school, and school permits and bratty girls and friends and the grey blue Plymouth Reliant.
In April of my freshmen year at Xavier, I went out for the softball team. (Was I good? No. Did I enjoy it? Kind of. Am I glad I can throw a baseball today? Yes). There were a group of moms that did a car pool rotation for us, and Thursday was one of our days. My mom picked us all up, and dropped each girl off at her house. When we came inside, the phone was ringing, and my mom answered.
I was looking through the mail, and heard her say "He's my ex-husband and the father of my children". It caught my attention, and I looked at her, and she looked back at me. I don't remember the next few moments, but somehow she told me that Mike was dead, but I insisted on hearing it from the person on the other end of the phone. He or she confirmed the news - Mike was dead. Gone. Poof. A life snuffed out, sometime in the middle of my softball practice.
There are parts of the evening that followed that are crystal clear, eleven years later. The pajamas that I put on (navy with pink piglets). The cookie that we ate (it was my Uncle Steve's birthday, and we had gotten him a cookie cake). Sitting in the front room, the piano room where we never sat, making the arrangements.
Though it was already a Thursday night when Mike died, the funeral was set for Saturday. I decided to go to school on Friday, and in first period, a prayer was said for "Michael Maloney" and I must have been visibly upset, but the day passed, and the evening, and then it was the day of his funeral.
I wore a white shirt and cardigan, and a black knee-length skirt with a white flower on the bottom left side. The funeral was held at St. Jude, our church at the time. I remember being surprised when a few of my Minneapolis aunts walked in. A few of Mike's friends. And of course all of us.
And then in walked Mr. Ferguson, my first period teacher.
He came on that Saturday, with his illness-stricken, wheelchair bound wife, and he probably doesn't remember it today - but I get choked up when I remember the image today - him helping his wife out of their car and in to her wheelchair, and wheeling her inside the church.
Among the things that I try most to be is a kind person, a person with compassion. And while I have been the lucky recipient of much kindness and compassion, the visual image of Mr. Ferguson and his wife have stuck with me across the past eleven years and is one of the most poignant, and bittersweet, memories I have associated with the days surrounding Mike's death.