The thing about grief, is that it has a tendency to bring up past losses. I was remembering the night I learned that my Mother had died. The police knocked on my door after 9 o’clock on a Friday night in June. We were living in Austin. I was watching AbFab.
In the midst of everything, the phone rang. We didn’t get many phone calls, and they were even more rare that late – unless it was my mother. And I think that is why that without hesitating, I picked up the phone. A part of me was sure it would be her on the other end, clearing up what was happening in my living room. This could not be true. She could not be dead. This could not be happening.
Denial is very powerful. Never forget that.
It wasn’t my mother on the phone (of course). It was B’s mother. I remember her asking how I was, and me saying something like, “not good”. I then passed the phone to B, and he went to our bedroom to take the call, leaving me alone with the social worker who accompanied the police. He didn’t mention what was taking place in our living room. This was all too new to him as well. Her timing could not have been any worse.
As it turned out, B’s parents were coming to Austin to visit again. They had just been in town, but only for a few days. They had gone to visit other relatives, and had planned to stop in Austin again. We knew they were coming back, but not exactly when. His mother was calling to tell him the details. I was so out of it, that I agreed to let them stay with us. I even gave them our room. We slept in the guest room which only had a twin bed, so poor B had to sleep on the floor. They complained at my need to sleep with the radio on, as I was still suffering from insomnia (because my mother had just died).
Thankfully, I was in therapy at the time, and I remember spending at least part of one session prior to their arrival, about how to break the news to B’s parents. To be fair, my mother had never met B’s parents. They never even spoke to each other. This, despite that B and I had known each other over ten years, and had finally gotten engaged that March (I think B told them this on their last pass through town).
B had met my mother. In fact, at the height of her plunge into the abyss, the three of us somehow lived together. To say it was crazy, would be an understatement. Between the collect messages in the middle of the night, to the courtesy call from security letting me know that the paramedics were about to take my mother away (to the mental hospital), I really do not know how B put up with it. He even went with me to visit her at what became known as Camp Cronin, when she did manage to find sobriety (unfortunately it only lasted about a year).
But the matter at hand, was how to tell my future in-laws that my mother had been found dead in her tiny apartment in San Francisco from alcoholism. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and told B that he would have to tell them. He ended up spilling the beans while all of us were picking up a few things for dinner at the local Whole Foods. His mother asked him what was wrong with me since I seemed a little distant, and he told her. Right there.
You can only imagine how difficult it was when the two of them came up to me in the canned goods aisle to express their sympathies. My only thought was please don’t lose it here and cause a scene because I like shopping at this store, and would hate to not be able to come back.
The matter was really never discussed again. It is really all hazy as I was in quite a daze at the time. Grief has a way of doing that. I was grateful that B and I both went off to work together in the morning. I was so out of it, it wasn’t until after they had gone that I realized that they had rearranged our furniture in the living room. Apparently they were bored, and had nothing to do while we were working.
I do remember lying on the living room floor several evenings while they were there, writing notes to my mother’s friends, letting them know what had happened. I had been given my mother’s address book, despite that my sister begged and pleaded for it. We think that my mother’s youngest sister wanted it so she could ask people (she didn’t know) for money. I decided that the book should be used for good, and so went and bought some stationery and stamps. I think I also thought that much like writing lines in school, writing those words over and over again, would somehow help the reality sink in, in what was becoming a very surreal experience. They never asked me what I was doing.
Fast forward almost 13 years. B received an email from his father saying that aside from doing their taxes, their plan is to spend as much time with the two of us (when they visit) because of what has happened. You will forgive me if I do not want to process my grief with them. Honestly, I think they have more guilt than grief, and really I cannot help them with that either. Honestly, if it was entirely up to me, I would have nothing to do with them. I didn’t want to tell them about the pregnancy to begin with, and I now realize what a mistake it was. I really wish that I could run away.