I’ve seen my sister maybe twice in the last thirty years. She has four grown children. I’ve met her 28-year-old twin sons twice: once when they were infants, once when they were twelve. I saw their older sister once, when she was two. I’ve never met their younger brother, who’s now twenty-one. (Over the years I’ve sent the twins emails, and tried to FB-friend them — but, alas, they’ve never responded. Same with their sister. Their younger son did FB-friend me back. Apparently an aspiring writer, he sent me a message saying that his mother told him I had once had published an article that I wrote.)
Yesterday my sister replied to an email I’d recently sent her, in which I’d asked her if she could recall whether or not our mother was married when she reentered our lives after having disappeared on us two years before. (And I do mean disappeared; when I was ten years old, and my sister twelve, our mother — with whom we were living after my father had moved out two years before — said, “I’m going to the store for some milk and bread,” and was gone. For the following two years, we didn’t hear a single word from her. We later learned that throughout that time she had been living and working not five miles from our home.)
In her email back to me, my sister wondered if I ever hear from our mom. I answered that, except for a single phone call, I hadn’t spoken with or seen our mom in thirty years. My sister and I patched together what little we knew about her — and the next thing we know, we’ve located a website with a page on it whereon the man we know to be her husband has written about much he’s grown psychologically and spiritually since the passing of his wife.
So to the email address given on that page, I wrote the man the following:
Hi, [man]. You’ve probably already received an email from my sister, in which I’m sure she inquired about the same thing I am, which is, simply: are you the [guy] who married our mother [mom’s name]? If so, is [mom’s name] the wife of yours who passed away?
In other words, do you know if our mother has passed away?
If so — if that’s the wife you wrote about losing — please accept my deepest sympathy. It sounds like you guys were really close; I am genuinely sorry for your loss. How did she die, if I may ask?
Well, gosh. I guess let me/us first discover whether the wife of yours who died was, in fact, our mother. Thank you very much for letting us know. And, again, we’re terribly sorry for your loss.
Thanks for taking the time to help us with this sad mystery,
A few hours later, the man wrote back to both my sister and me to say that, yes, our mom, an “amazing woman,” was his wife of twenty-five years. Five years ago, he told us, she died of lung cancer.
Yikes. Lung cancer!
I once had one of my lungs collapse on me. A doctor came into my emergency room area, got his face real close to mine, and said, “You’ve got twenty seconds to pull air into your lung. If you don’t, it’s going to collapse forever. I can’t help you with the pain; there’s no time. Trying to breathe is going to hurt like nothing you’ve ever felt before. [This, I already knew.] Do it anyway — and do it Now. I’ll leave you alone. Good luck.”
I did it. It made fireworks go off in my head — but not in a good way.
But it worked. Here I am! Two lungs and all!
My mom, obviously, didn’t contact us during the year or two she was certain she was dying.
I have a lot of good cyber-friends out there in cyberspace, and I’m grateful to every one of you. You guys are so nice. And because you are, some of you might be feeling sorry for me today. I totally appreciate that. But, from my end, please know that I’m perfectly okay. By the time I’d hit about twenty years old, I had begun to pretty wholly realize that I’d better come to terms with the fact that my mom emotionally nurturing me was a dream that would never come true. I’ve had thirty years to adjust my psychology to that truth. So I’m okay. You don’t do all the work necessary to truly sever yourself emotionally from your parents to then be emotionally blindsided when one of them dies. (I wrote a bit about this type of thing in Unhappy? Reject Your Loser Parents.) I know this sounds absurdly callous, but the (hard won) truth is my mom’s been dead to me for a long time now. Finding out that she actually did die, five years ago, isn’t, at this point, anything near traumatizing, or even difficult.
So, I’m good. I mean, I’m aware of what’s happened, obviously. But … well, put it this way: I slept fine last night.
Love to you all.