I'm sure that every ring of the telephone made them both jump. Was it him? Was it someone from corrections telling them he'd been knifed in a riot? Where was he? Was he scared? Lonely? I shudder at the thoughts that must have haunted them nightly as they waited for news.
Finally, two days ago, a call. Corrections staff.
"Are you the mother of *******?"
Requests for verification of personal information.
"Does ******** have permission to call this number, collect?"
Shortly thereafter, I received a call at home. I picked up the phone and heard an enormous sigh of relief.
"I heard from your brother today. He sounded good."
Finally, I could hear it in my mother's voice. She was breathing again. As she relayed the details of the conversation, I detected a faint catch in her voice; the sound of someone almost starting to cry. But for the first time in a long time, this was the sound of someone crying tears of relief. Her worst fears had been set to rest; he was not caged up in a maximum security facility with murderers and rapists. He was not dead. He was safe.
Easter is fast approaching. We are all looking forward to spring, and the renewal of the earth. My parents will be spending Easter together with all their grandchildren, for the first time in many years. While the house will be full and noisy with the sounds of children and family, there will be a silent guest as well. By way of his conspicuous absence, my brother will become the elephant in the room.
I'm not sure how, or if, I will explain to my children why their uncle is not there. I'm certain the day will come soon enough when I will find it necessary to tell my oldest child the truth about what happened. Until that day comes, I will keep breathing.