Mum wakes us up early on Saturday. She tells me she’s going to the hospital with my older brother. That she’ll probably be gone all day. She leaves a twenty dollar note on the kitchen bench, kisses each of us goodbye and leaves.
It is March 2006. I’m fresh out of school and studying at TAFE. My little brother is nine, and my sister only five, a week and a half shy of her sixth birthday. Her birthday will forever be stained with this loss. I feel for her. I feel for them both. Their dad left so soon after my sister’s birth that she’d barely just learned to open her eyes before she noticed he was gone. Truth is, I probably knew their dad better than they ever had the chance to. I am grateful for those years, troubled and turbulent as they were.
They know very little about what has happened. They are both so young, how could they possibly understand. An accident at work. An explosion. A coma he may never emerge from.
There’s no food in the house so I take the twenty dollars and my brother and sister and we walk to the McDonalds close by. I get the kids a happy meal each and we sit in silence near the playground. After a while, my sister asks ‘Is our dad going to die?’
I shake my head and say I’m not sure. This is the truth, at the time, but it feels cruel to not give them any hope. I haven’t heard from Mum since she left. it could already be over. My chips have gone cold and I push them away. In the background I hear ‘Heaven Help My Heart’ playing through the speakers and this is what I will remember for all the years that follow.