The Beginning of a Story

You know, I've been staring at this blank sheet of paper for about an hour now. That's pretty sad, especially for me. Usually I have a lot to say, sometimes more than I really should. My mom used to say that if there's anything you want to know about our family, just ask Allie. I used to take offense to that, but since she and dad died I'd give almost anything to hear her say it again. My mom was a wise lady. I never knew that when I was young, I didn't even know it when she died. It took me a really long time to figure that out, and that is even sadder than how long I've been staring at this piece of paper.

Most people say that when you start a story, its best to start at the beginning. That's easy to say. The beginning just seems like the logical place to start. The beginning is never as interesting as the actual meat of the story, you know the parts where someone falls in love, or jumps off a skyscraper or kills a dragon. That's the part everyone wants to hear about. That's the part I want to talk about, but I'm not a total idiot, I know that it has to start somewhere and although I could start with the line "He was dead and nothing in the world would ever bring him back," it would be pretty confusing without starting with the line, "I grew up in a little town in Pennsylvania." Both sentences are true, but it makes most sense to start with the latter.

So here it is, I grew up in a little town in Pennsylvania. You probably have never even heard of it. Its name was Mercersburg, and although you don't know anything about it, I can tell you that that little town was very proud of its one and only famous creation: James Buchanan. Our fifteenth president was born and raised in that tiny town a little under two hundred years ago, and Mercersburg never let the world, or at least the inhabitants forget that. There was a high school named after him, and a middle school, an inn, and even a state park. He was a very popular guy in Mercersburg.

My parents were both born and raised in that little town just like their parents. They put off having any kids for years and years and years and then one day had the revelation that they better do it soon or they were going to never get the chance. So they started doing their best to make a brand new little baby, but after a year or two went by, it became quite clear that it just wasn't going to happen the natural way, so that's where I came in. I was adopted. It wasn't a great big epic story about how they came to have me. I wasn't delivered to their door in a basket, came via the American foster system.

My origins were a mystery to them. I was abandoned at a fire station in a nearby town, and my parents just got lucky and ended up with me. I don't really remember when they told me that I was adopted, but I don't really remember ever not knowing. I don't have one of those stories about how I found out I was adopted and EVERYTHING CHANGED. Although, if I did that would make a good story, too. Nothing adds spice to a coming of age tale like a healthy dose of family drama.

Anyway, life was going great. My parents were pretty awesome. My mom's name was Angie and she was an elementary school teacher. My dad's name was Bob and he was a contractor. Between the two of them, they'd managed to build up a nice life. I'm not even going to pretend I wasn't spoiled. I always got pretty much whatever I wanted, and they never made me feel bad about it. I don't think I thanked them enough for it all. I wish I had at least once just run up to them and given them a hug and said, "Thanks for loving me like you do. Thanks for putting up with me. Thank you for my wonderful life." No one says that to their parents. I kind of wish I had though, because now I don't have the chance.

My sophomore year of college, my parents died unexpectedly. There was a gas leak, and just like that they were gone. I could spend a lot of time telling you about that time in my life. It wouldn't be hard. I still have a lot to say about it, and every once in a while, I still cry until I fall asleep, but grief is a funny thing. It's not that it hurts less as time goes on, it's just that the rest of your life fills in the spaces where the ones you love used to be, and you think about them less and less. You never get to the point where you don't think about them at all, and every once in a while all that pain comes rushing back. I'll sit there on the floor, my knees drawn up against my chest, sobbing into my hands.

Maybe if I'd been old, I could have just given up and wallowed in my misery until I died, but I wasn't old. I was twenty years old. So I took a semester off and I enlisted the aid of some friends and neighbors to go through everything that my parents collected through their lives. Then I sold the house, the furniture, and the cars. I boxed up all their clothes and donated them to good will. Mom and Dad's lawyer arranged an auction for me and when it was all said and done, I'd condensed most of my parents into a plastic tub. I put all the money in the bank and then I went back to school. It's what they would have wanted, and besides, I couldn't have lived there in the house where they died. I just couldn't have. That's all I'm going to say about that. Truthfully, I wouldn't have even brought it up if it hadn't been important for you to know about it.

My mom and dad were really passionate about me getting a good education, so I never even considered dropping out of college. I'm not going to lie to you. I went back to school and sort of drifted through the next year and a half. I took lots of classes that didn't amount to a major and although I had good grades across the board, I wasn't even close to graduating. The closest think I had to a major was Irish Gaelic since I'd taken about ten classes on the language and could speak it all but fluently. I don't really know how long it would have gone on, me taking classes and randomly hitting onto useless majors. Truthfully, it didn't matter. I now had the money for it and there was no one to tell me "no" or to encourage me to grow up and get a real job.

My academic advisor was generally irritated with me. She hadn't managed to get me on any sort of logical course and it drove her absolutely bonkers. She suggested that maybe I ought to go study overseas for a semester and finish out my major. It wouldn't be useful in the slightest, but at least I'd actually have a major finished. It seemed like a pretty neat idea. So, I did as she suggested, I transferred for a semester to a small school in Ireland. It was out in the countryside and the photos on the Internet were simply gorgeous. So it seemed like a good idea, I said goodbye to my friends and headed through the doors of the airport. We promised to go out for drinks when I got back. I had every intention of keeping my word, I swear I did. Unfortunately we never got the chance because that was the last time I ever saw them.