That is 14 years plus the extra leap days. It is still hard to believe that it has been that long since my Mom was found dead in her itty bitty apartment in San Francisco.
I still can remember having this debate with my therapist about how since it took them a few days to find me, and I was fine on the day that it happened, that I should be fine now. It makes even less sense now. Grief doesn’t make sense. It makes you do and think weird things, like believing nothing has changed, when in reality everything has.
I remember calling her in that time in between. I got her voice mail, and decided not to leave a message. We hadn’t been talking. I had been trying to keep my distance because I knew she was back to drinking again.
I also didn’t want to call her because I had been fired from my job at the end of April. The last day of the month, in fact. I was embarrassed because I had done something she had warned me against – working for a friend – and now it had blown up in my face. The “friend” didn’t even have the decency to fire me herself. I should have seen it coming, and I shouldn’t have been surprised because it is almost exactly what happened to the woman I replaced.
I had only been willing to pick up the phone at all because I had at least landed on my feet again. I somehow managed to get a part-time position working at the same company as B. Despite one of the worst interviews of my life, I was actually hired on the spot, and set up with a desk and phone before lunch. I think I felt I had something I could offer up against my firing, so it would be okay. Of course, we never got to have that conversation.
Instead, the police would show up on my front door on a Friday evening while I was lying on the couch watching AbFab. I was in my nightgown, and I remember asking if they could wait outside while I got dressed. I think I ended up just throwing on a robe (which I still have).
I didn’t want to sit down, but they insisted. My couch was full of magazines and papers and books. I was embarrassed by this, but it didn’t matter once they told me why they were there.
And then of course, in the middle of it all – After my screaming fit. After B came into the living room. After one of people left. – the phone rang. It was after 9pm. I was sure it was my Mother. It just had to be. THIS could not be happening.
But, of course, it wasn’t. It was actually the Beast. B took the call in our bedroom, and wasn’t able to tell her about the goings on in our living room. I don’t blame him. I didn’t believe it either.
It wasn’t until after I called the Coroner’s office in San Francisco that it started to sink in. The man on the phone was polite. His voice quiet, yet matter of fact. He asked if I had any questions. I had no idea what I thought I could ask. So, although I had a million questions, I asked him none. I think maybe it was because I doubted he had answers for any of them.
My next call was to my former teacher, who was a nun. She had already gone to bed, but I asked if they could get her. She knew my Mom too. It was perhaps an odd choice, but I wasn’t sure who else to call. Well, I did, but I needed a bit of strength.
The only phone number I had for any of my mom’s family was her brother. Thankfully he was also on the west coast, so I had the time difference in my favor. It was late, but not too late. I still remember my Aunt breaking down in tears when I managed to get the words out that my Mom hadn’t been hospitalized again, but was dead.
They agreed to alert the rest of the family, including her father. There would be all sorts of chaos in the days ahead, including another brother threatening to steal the body and beat my Uncle up while he was in town. It really was that crazy.
The best part though was having the call waiting beep to find my sister on the other line. It was probably close to 3am her time, and she was livid. You see, in the process of being told that my mother was dead, I was asked if I had any siblings. It happened that the last thing my Mother sent to me was a postcard with my sister’s address on it. My Mother felt that I should send my sister money for an air conditioner in her apartment. I didn’t reply. But since they asked, I gave them the address, not realizing that they would send the police to her house post-haste with the news.
My sister went on, after explaining about how the cops showed up at her house in the middle of the night, to state that she felt we should have our Mother cremated and toss her ashes off the Golden Gate Bridge (that’s illegal by the way). I cannot tell you how long we were on the phone, or how I managed to get her off the line, but by that time I was beyond exhausted, and of course, had no desire to go to sleep.
B though, insisted that I at least lie down. He didn’t want me up all night. There wasn’t anything more I could really do. Plus, he had to go to the office in the morning, and take the car in, and didn’t I have an appointment to for an eye exam?
I didn’t want to be alone, although B made me follow him to the shop in my car to take his car in. It turned out they weren’t open on Saturday, so we ended up going back to the house because I told him that I really didn’t want to be alone. I am really not sure how I didn’t lose it right there.
We then went downtown Austin to have lunch before going in to the office. We went to this Irish pub. I had no appetite, which I am sure upset B. I remember going to a pay phone and calling my therapist to see if he would see me later, although I couldn’t tell him anything beyond “something bad” had happened. AND I also asked if he could see me after my appointment with the optometrist that I couldn’t cancel. I told you grief makes you do crazy things. I left this as a message on his answering machine, by the way. And since I didn’t have a direct line, I had to give B’s work number as my contact number.
After working for a few hours – well, I was still part-time, so just sat around after telling our boss what had happened, and crying my eyes out as it was the first time I had told someone else my Mother was dead face-to-face – we went to get my eyes checked (we should have had them check my brain). I said nothing about what was going on, but kept crying every time I was left in the exam room alone. They also dilated my eyes, so by the time I arrived at my therapist’s office my pupils were still the size of saucers.
It was after 6pm by the time we got home, and there were several messages waiting for me on the answering machine. None of them good. The next week or so is mostly a blur. I cannot believe that was 14 years ago. I really have no idea how I got through it, or have survived this long without her.