A Tale of Two Swans

by Sarah Swan

January 2, 2014

I have grown to love New Years. But it wasn’t always so. Today brings tears of sorrow and of Joy. I apologize for bearing a story of heartache and sorrow, but I promise it has a happy ending. I am the first born of my mom Karen and dad Tom Swan, and my late grandma Charlotte (Fiander) Swan and my late grandpa John Swan’s first grandchild, thus making me the first niece of Jerry, Nick, Paul, and Tim. Nonetheless, I was treasured by all!

I remember this day oh so many years ago, January 2, 1982. I believe it was a Saturday. I woke up, still in my yellow nightgown, hair bushy, Princess Leia in one hand and Kitty Beans in the other. My uncle Tim in the dining room with my dad and my mom was in the kitchen making a glorious breakfast for us all. I climbed into my Uncle Tim’s lap, showing him my Princess Leia. Lynnie came and was showing him all her new toy’s that she had gotten for her birthday and Christmas. The sun was shining and we all ate breakfast together. Then afterwards you know that Crystal Gayle album had to go on so I could sing for my Uncle…as usual. It was a beautiful day, I didn't know he was coming to say good bye…until later that night when we got the phone call. My daddy left right away!

How does a mother tell her four-year-old daughter that her Uncle had taken his own life? She sat me on the bed and did it the best she could. As I lay in my bed crying myself to sleep, I prayed that my Uncle would be okay. Hugging my pillow, all I could think about was my Uncle who would carry me in the water; swimming with me in the creek behind my grandma’s house, better known as “The Swan’s”. My Uncle who would get down on the floor with Lynnie and I, never too good to play dolls and tea party. My Uncle who would put music to the little songs that always came to me. My uncle who was with me when I was three-years-old and I got my first set of stitches, telling me to be brave (to this day before I start an IV, run a code, holding the hand of the one when death is near, I hear his voice...be brave). My Uncle who dressed up like Gene Simmons the "Demon" for Halloween, and I really thought KISS was on my doorstep. My uncle who could make a guitar sing…just like Jimi! But my Uncle wasn’t okay. We all know how that day ended.

I wasn’t allowed at the viewing. However, it was his funeral that my first memories of Catholic Mass are from. Where I learned how to shake hands with all those around me, and say “Peace be with you”. St. Mary’s was filled that day with all who loved my Uncle, standing room only all the way outside the church. After mass was over and we was leaving the church, I was behind my Auntie Tunia, his casket was covered with a beautiful Pendleton blanket, and his picture, that I wish I had, but is how I remember him, from my Uncle Gabe and Aunt Tammy’s wedding. Oh he was so remarkably handsome in that picture! My Auntie Tunia touched the casket, and then so did I, to say goodbye. At the Cemetery was when I learned the Yakama way, that men stand to the North and women to the South, how to sing with my hand, and how to throw dirt. I learned that day, heartache and sorrow for the New Year.

I was in a near fatal car accident with my dear friend Darla on Lateral C and Progressive on July 11, 1997. Tommy, my poor little brother, only fifteen at the time had to be my nurse that summer. My Dad gave Tommy his guitar for his good deed being my nurse and Tommy was blessed with the gift right away. One day he was playing this tune…it brought back so many memories…it was a song my Uncle Tim had written. Tommy wasn’t born yet, when we lost my Uncle Tim, which made this sad, beautiful, and amazing, part of my Uncle is still here with us because ...music never dies.

Well, I promised you a happy ending so here it is. The Lord, the Creator, the man upstairs, whoever you believe in works in mysterious ways, I know too cliche. However, this day 28 years later from when we lost my uncle, four years ago on a Saturday January 2, 2010 at 0940 am, I was blessed with my second son, or my second little Swan I should say, Michael Steven DeShawn Patterson II. After 12 hours of labor, and a terrifying delivery, you was my biggest baby 8.9lbs, 22 inches long. You were so pink, plump, bright eyed and with the biggest hands and feet I had ever seen on a baby. Just recently Coach Bailiff took one look at you and is already trying to put claims on you early for the defensive line! Except, I do not for see you going to Rice. I think you’ll be a Husky, just like your daddy...even though your mama is Cougar. Just as long as your not a Duck, my boy! My gentle giant, your sweet smile and twinkle in your eye brings me nothing but joy everyday! Pray nothing less than greatness for your life! You was the best New Years present I could have ever ask for! Happy birthday little Michael! Thank you for turning a day of sorrow to a day of celebration...Mommy loves you!!!

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