It's hard for me to sympathize with parents whose children have died. I remember Adam Cassell in 11th grade, and his mother talking from above his body, across his casket, to talk to us. It's hard now to remember her face, but I remember how beautiful she was to be a mother, that Adam and his brother Alan got their dark skinned good looks from her. Before then and after then, I had not known another mother to lose a son this way.

But I do know a mother who has lost her son while he lives. Two in fact: Saul in California and Zack down the street from where she lives, which is also in my neighborhood. I can talk to Zack when I pass him as he sits out in front of the tattoo shop where he works, if I want to. I mean, I want to, but I don't know what to say. He knows I see his mother every Sunday, that she now sings the hymns at church he and Saul once did. Why they don't speak to their mother is mostly due to their wives and the fact that they are weak men and prefer to satisfy their young brides, to keep Angie from leaving Zack, as she's done before, than to bridge the troubled waters that pull them from their parents. I will not say that their parents did nothing wrong, but all I know is that Zack and Saul made the move to leave the family, and Billy and Brenda were left only to accept it.

Billy and Brenda are like my surrogate parents, so their children, who are my age, were to me often like spoiled brats vying for attention and favor. Zack and Saul loved hanging out with their parents and were at their place all the time, so it is hard to see so many spaces of Billy's time left empty. It aches me to see the family pictures taken off the wall because it pains Brenda to look at children who will not speak to her, who did not even wish their father a happy birthday. Saul and Kelli's baby, Noah, is no longer her first grandchild. The concept that this is killing her is an understatement.

I would do anything to reunite them, to see the children come back. I know that it would require a lot from both of them, because as much as Billy and Brenda want reunion, they also don't want to cave to their sons' whims to earn their re-entry into their lives. I know that all married children must make the transition that what my family means will change, but I do not think that it needed to be so drastic. I say children while Zack is 27, his wife 31, Saul and Kelli each barely 22. But when all I see are mournful parents, I can only think of them as wayward and unkind children, that children act this way when throwing a tantrum, when they pick the wildest of extremes and run with it.

I sold Zack and Angie my old car about a year ago, so this hasn't been going on long. One by one, they stopped talking to me and other people they knew, and then finally their parents got this letter denouncing that they were related to Billy and Brenda and wanted nothing to do with them. Brenda's youngest, Maggie, now 20 and pregnant, lives across the street from her parents and they hold them close to her; together, they hold the fort. It's like watching a family cling together in an open field, battling a tornado. Their collective weight isn't enough to keep them from being picked up and tossed like debris, and I'm watching this all behind a pane of glass, where I scream and claw and….cry.

They're not my family, but they're a family I know. I sit here, rubbing my hands in my hair, hanging my head so that my chin touches my chest, and sigh. My own parents have kids that don't write back, grandchildren they never saw grow up, because of one thing or another, most of which I don't even care about anymore. As much as they have annoyed me, ignored me, lied to me to protect me, they are the only family I've got. And I simply can't do to them what is being done to Billy and Brenda. Now that I've seen what it looks like.

Even though I doubt I will marry or have kids, if I did, my family will know my parents. Mom and dad will watch my children grow up. I do not want to be a picture taken down because of pain. I've hurt enough people already.

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