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‘I Would Give Anything to Hold Their Hands Again’

Our boys didn’t know about Andy’s past. He and I met two years after the earthquake when our work overlapped. In time, Andy and I fell in love, married and had twin sons. As the boys turned 3, then 4, I found myself searching online, “What is the right age to talk to children about death?”

I wondered when they would ask about the other two boys in framed photos on our bookshelves or recognize them on their grandmother’s refrigerator — the pictures that didn’t change with each new baseball season or dance recital like those of the other grandchildren. Those two faces never grow up.

When I looked at my sons — at their baby teeth smiles and wrists still pudgy with baby fat — I could only guess at who they would be years from now. Andy often wondered the same about his first boys. One recent August marked when the eldest, Evan, would have turned 18. Would he be headed off to college? How would his voice sound?

That August afternoon, we had just finished eating lunch next to a lake near our home when Andy turned to me and said, “I’m going to tell them.”

I felt anxious, not knowing how the boys would take it, but also reassured by Andy’s calm. We got up and started walking along the edge of the lake when Andy stopped and said, “Boys, I have something to tell you.”

They loved his stories and ran to him, each grabbing a hand.

“Many years ago,” he said, “when I was working in a country called Haiti, I lived with my two sons and their mom. My sons were just about your age — Baptiste was almost 5, and Evan was 7. Today is Evan’s birthday actually; he would have been 18. One day, there was a big earthquake.” He explained what an earthquake was, tectonic plates and all. “I was at work and Evan, Baptiste and their mom, Laurence, my wife before your mommy, were at home.”

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