Train Wreck

I was talking on the phone to my nephew Capone just after his sister died, and in the background I could hear a train passing, really loud. I cracked up laughing and asked, “Boy, you live by a train, you too?”
He laughed and said, “Yeah.”

I’d never heard a train over the phone like that except when calling my mom’s house. The tracks are right in her back yard. So damn close that when it approached she’d say, “Hold on, the train is coming.”

I remember doing that when I lived there. Listening real good for that distant rumble, that warning sign that I was about to be embarrassed, to do something quick. I’d tell my friends, “I’m going to put you on hold” and then unplug the phone line until it passed.

Still, I loved those trains. The whole world passed through my backyard on that thing. Mostly freight. My favorites were the ones carrying the brand new cars. Only once did I see a passenger train. I’d always hoped to see one of those, and when it did finally pass, it mesmerized me. It even stopped for a few minutes behind our house. The passengers’ faces were pressed against the window staring at me stare at them.

Watching trains, I saw that the world was not stagnant. I was the first to know what the latest model cars looked like, what colors they came in, and that people somewhere were buying lots of them. I used to stand on those tracks and watch the caboose until it faded away in the distance. I wanted to go there, where the tracks formed a pinnacle, to that “as far as the eye can see” place.

Besides seeing and hearing that train, we could feel it too. Our house was wooden and stood on these brick columns. The dishes would rattle, the things on the wall would tremble. It was like these little earthquake aftershocks. Not a violent or frightful feeling, no, it was a predictable, rhythmic thing, like a gentle rocking. To me. Friends and visiting relatives were not used to this and were afraid. Especially when it passed during the night. They couldn’t stop talking about it the next day. It made me feel brave that I could put up with such a thing. And all that noise and shaking was constant reminder of opportunities out there, places to go.

I even missed that damn train when I got married and moved just a few blocks away. I did get to experience that shaking and that sound in the new place. A tornado passed right over us and it sounded and felt exactly the same as the freight train. But that was a really scary thing for me. Hearing that train noise and not living by the tracks.

So back in October just after burying my brother Shane, we are all at my mom’s house. Capone and his sister Candace, these are Shane’s two kids. Capone is in the Navy, lives in Florida. And Candace, she’s the only one in their immediate family still living in town now that their dad is gone. I have this overwhelming feeling, a warning, a rumbling in the distance, like the freight train is coming. Or a tornado. One or the other. Capone feels it too. The two of us talk for an hour or two about the risky situation Candace is in. About how to keep this situation from swallowing this kid. Capone goes to Candace’s that night or the next day and tries to convince her to go home with him or to go to New Orleans where her mother lives.

She choses to stay. She is an adult and it is her choice. Us trying to do anything to save her is like putting a rock or a coin on the tracks. We can’t derail it.

The coroner mortician thinks Candace fell asleep at the wheel. She was driving over a bridge, hit a guardrail which deployed the airbag and knocked her out cold. The car plowed into the water and there were no signs that she tried to get out of the seatbelt. She drowned. Her only other injury was a tiny bruise on her cheek from the airbag.

Edited Note: This was written for Capone, who lives by the trains, him too.

This is my favorite photo of her taken last year for her high school graduation. I have no idea who took it.


33 thoughts on “Train Wreck

  1. Yeah, Cfo, bad year, but it could have been worse.

    Pooks, my mom used to call Blane “Baby Face” and Shane’s son “Al Capone” when they were little boys. They are the same age.

  2. On a recent visit to Zach psychiatrist, I made an adjustment to Zach and he inquired why? I just explianed that Zach was twitching his body because something was bothering him and now he can play calmly. He then told me something that I think is true for you too. He told me that I see things that other people don’t. He told me life is harder for people like me. much harder. He told me that other people can’t see it , at all and they are happier and life is easier. Strangely, I let alot of people in my life off the hook. I let them have there version of life inside mine. I can tell by your writing that you probably heard that train coming many times in many ways and in many lives.
    You shared beautifully the love that Candace inspired in her life.

  3. Jennifer, I am perceptive, probably picked that up from my days as a nurse.
    I am generally happy and life does not seem hard for me. But I have to admit, I am a filthy bleeding heart liberal.

    The stuff about the train is all true but it is a metaphor for my outlook on life. To live without too much fear, to keep an open mind, to look for good opportunities in life, but to understand that not much can stop a speeding train.

  4. I know it’s the word “hard” it was his word and his persepctive so I left it. Sometimes it takes someone else perseptive to see how we take ourselves for granted. I know being you comes easy to you….. : )

  5. Kitty, your heart is as big as your blog! I Love you with all of mine and everything that I can ever remember in my life always includes you!

  6. Writemind, er, Blane, I told you to disguise yourself on my blog…
    Geez, it looks like I’m having an affair with some writer.

    Isn’t my hubby sweet? Thanks, Blane, uh. Writemind.

  7. If writemind won’t stop harassing, I’m telling Blane. Sr.

    That picture is lovely, Kit. But I can’t get my eyes off her fingers. She has the most beautiful, long, thin, delicate, made to be embroidered with rings fingers. I noticed them in the other picture first. They are just beautiful.

  8. Yes she did have beautiful hands, like her mother’s. I was going to crop this photo because one of her hands is not in there, but I just put it up like I got it minus the color.

  9. Lovely, bittersweet story. I used to live in a house in Europe that used to be a train station so I know what you mean. We lived across from the tracks. It was quite annoying at first, but strangely reassuring after awhile

    I’m so sorry for your loss. When I first clicked on your site, I saw the photo and thought, Pretty girl, reminds me of Jessica Alba. Then my eyes caught the word coroner and I felt sad, very sad.

    Writing is cathartic. Keep writing.

  10. Thanks, Stiletto. I’m fortunate to have such great friends and family and I have my writing too, which keeps me on track. Yes, it is cathartic. It works.
    Everyone says that about Candace, that she looked just like Alba. I thought it too.

    And I have some people emailing me prvately asking me if I have God. I do. There’s not much of it here on this blog because when the topic of religion comes up it does not always bring out the best in people, unfortunately.

  11. The tracks was a wonderful place to learn of life. We ‘lived by’ the train’s passing. As far as the phone, We were so used to talking on the phone, with others that lived by the tracks also, I didn’t even give it a second thought. I would walk those tracks daily to dad’s work to bring his hot lunch and spend time with him. In spring my friends and I would pick blackberries that grew wild on those tracks. We saw what every one was doing down those tracks. Peeps would sit on the tracks to smoke, etc. That is where we met cinemagypsy’s brothers. Thats where their big black lab bit me on the butt. Her oldest brother and I would kiss on those tracks, when we were dating. The track has been removed by our home. Shane would walk the track ‘right of way’ to our home daily, ’till the blood weed got thicker than his thumb. By the end of the summer it had become impassable. He had to start traveling the long way of the streets. We can hear your train passing now.

  12. Hey Ann, that was one of the best things about those tracks, the wild blackberries. Do they still grow there?
    Oh, you just had to throw that in about my dog biting your butt, huh? LOL.
    I think my younger brother has stopped blaming you for that.
    Thanks for stopping by, Ann, and for being so kind to my family.

  13. I love Shane and Candace so deeply. They are loved and missed by so many. Their kind and selfless acts touched us all. We loved watching Candace and Capone growing up. Turning them on to the internet. The times we spent with them are cherished memories. I had the pleasure of spending a whole day with her in July. We knew of her situation. We felt helpless. The last time I saw her was at her place of work. She said she would call. I prayed she would. The call never came.
    She was beautiful, smart, and so very kind. So sorry for your family’s lost. We know your pain.

  14. Wow Kitty – great post. And what a beautiful picture of Candace.
    I love your comments about the trains – you’re the first person I’ve met who grew up (like me) smack next to a train track – Florida East Coast railway – FEC on all the freight cars. The whistle, the way the glass shook the windowpanes, the vibrations underfoot – and the amazing ability to sleep clear through it. And those blackberries! You had to get them before the mockingbirds did, tho. I still have some pennies my ‘brothers’ and I squashed on the tracks.

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  18. Kitty,

    Candace was beautiful. I know you all cherish your memories of her. After you posted your comment at mysteryoriley, I had to come see what happened to her.

    I love your blog.

    Owen’s mom

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