"Come here kiddo.
Let me see your boo boo.
Ohhh, ouchie!
Here, let Uncle Terry kiss it."

He tenderly placed his lips
on my scraped knee.
"Uncle Terry I fallded' off my bike!
Ouchie ouchieeee!"

"You did?! Oh silly girl.
Here, allllll better," he said
with a smile as he placed
a band-aid on my knee.

"Uncle Terry! Uncle Terry!"
He pulled me in his lap.
"Yes my child?"
"Wanna play hide-n-go seek?!"

He hugged me real tight
as he let me go
and put his hands
over his eyes.

"Oneeee, twooooo, threeeee..."
I laughed as I ran away.
I hid behind the couch
as I giggled quietly.

"Ready or not,
here I come!"
I crouched real low
and I made sure I was quiet.

"Hmmmmm, I wonder where Mariah is!"
My silly Uncle Terry.
My best friend.
My daddy when daddy wouldn't be.

Innocence is a funny thing.
He shielded me.
Protected me from the world
I one day hate.

He gasped.
"AAAAAHA!"
He looked behind the curtain.
"I could have sworn she would be here!"

I giggled.
He laughed.
He popped his head over the back of the couch.
"There she is!"

I screamed.
He grabbed me and tickled me.
I was having so much fun.
Little did I know it would end soon.

"Mariah, would you like to go camping
with Uncle Terry?"
I smiled my biggest smile.
"Yes yes yes!"

"Good." He smiled.
"Let's go tell Aunt Brenda and we'll go right now."
We packed our stuff
and headed out.

I woke up. It was three in the morning.
Aunt Brenda was sleeping.
Uncle Terry must have taken the dogs out, I thought.
I climbed out of bed to find him and hug him.

He was sleeping in his chair.
I climbed on his lap.
"Pssstttttt! Wake up!"
He didn't move.

"Uncle Terry, wake uppppp!"
He still didn't move.
I giggled.
I thought it was a game.

"Uncle Terry please wake up."
I poked his face and giggled.
He didn't even smile.
He always smiled when I did that.

Aunt Brenda woke up and came out.
"What's wrong?"
"Aunt Bwenda' Uncle Terry won't wake up!"
She came over to his chair.

"Oh my god.
Oh. My. God.
No.
Mariah call 911!"

I got scared.
Aunt Brenda was crying.
Soon an ambulance was there.
Aunt Brenda wouldn't quit crying.

Later that night
Uncle Terry was pronounced dead.
He had had a brain aneurysm.
My daddy when my daddy wasn't
was dead.

My best friend
was dead.
My only loving family
was dead.

Why wouldn't he wake up?
I just wanted to play!
And now he's gone
and I'm alone with the memories.

The memories of the laughter
that is now so distant,
now so lost,
something that died with him.