From time to time, I google my second cousin Charles. Charles, my maternal grandmother’s sister’s son. Charles, who grew up next door to my mom. Charles, who let me know ever so tactfully, that I had no more family when my mother died. There was his obituary. He lived to a reasonable 79 and died sometime in March. I don’t know how he died, but dead he is. I’m ambivalent. Was he the bad guy in this story, or was my mom, and Charles did what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances?
My mom had died that morning. That afternoon I found the old phone book with his number written in it by my long gone grandmother. I called and got his wife, who was really kind, and she got Charles. I swear, he must’ve been rehearsing for the day I’d call, that my mom was already some dead stranger in his mind. I told him how my mom died of sepsis and that could I have the number of his sister, Diane, who I knew a bit better than him. His voice was sickeningly sweet, patronizing, as though he were talking to a dim child. It went something like, “Ohhh” when I told him of her death, and said equally saccharine, that Diane had gotten remarried and he didn’t know her new number. It might have been true, but he acted as though he had no clue about my mother or me either. I couldn’t accept that I had been disowned, so I tried calling again the next day just in case he really was ignorant of who I was. Same saccharine tone, but no sorry for your loss. I kept hoping he’d tell Diane, that he’d remember he was a “good Christian” and that I was family.
I look back on that time of my life, and I still grow anxious, wondering how I managed to survive, my mom in the hospital morgue and I facing the loss of our home. All I know is, there must be a God, but I’m still ever vigilant that my luck might run out any day now, and that I will lose everything.
Here is the possible vindication of Charles. Straight out of high school, at the age of 17, my mom got the hell out of that tiny mountain community, trained to be a registered nurse, and joined the air force. She came back, , but she didn’t feel like she belonged there. We visited as long as my grandparents lived there, and we saw family who visited as long as my grandparents were alive. But the moment my grandparents were both gone, my mom didn’t keep in touch with the rest of the family. Out of sight, out of mind was my mother’s mindset. I remember vividly at various times asking my mom to call relatives, so that we weren’t totally alone.
We ended up selling the house we had lived in with our grandparents after they died. We couldn’t afford the upkeep. Mom didn’t bother to tell them where we lived now, but Diane searched for us. She found out I was on disability for “my nerves.” I didn’t want to go into my full mental health issues. We were told to keep in touch. Mom didn’t and I was too shy.
So you see, my mom asked for it, and after she died, they gave it to her through me. Maybe it was deserved, but someone once asked me would I have done that to a mentally ill family member. Honestly, no I would not.
I’m scrolling through Facebook and suddenly I see my first grade teacher, with ‘Remembering’ over her photo. She’s dead, but not naturally. She was driving one Sunday night and a young drunk guy hit her head on. She died at the scene. I still can’t fathom it. No one is saying whether she died instantly or lingered a short while. I unfortunately have a wild imagination, something she could have attested to when I was a little girl. I pray she didn’t know what happened.
I’m struck with massive amounts of guilt. Guilt that I tried to limit our interactions because she would beg me to come stay with her. She had wanted to adopt me when I was little and she still wanted me some 35 years or so later. I was such an unremarkable, ugly little girl that the principal and previous teacher wrote me off as too dumb to learn to read. It was probably my lack of luster, funny way of walking, and withdrawn way that made her determined to teach me and love me. My own mother couldn’t even understand why she liked me so much, and was afraid she was going to kidnap me. Mom thought maybe she couldn’t have children. That was definitely not the case, because she went on to have six children! Yet after all these years, she still saw me as her favorite student ever. Me of all people. She wanted to come see me in February , while her brother was recovering from a covid related amputation. I don’t know what happened. Did she not come? Did she sense I was more than a bit concerned that I’d catch covid? I wish she understood why I didn’t want to move far away and become beholden on someone ever again. I cuss, while she marked curses out of books. She believed liberalism was against God and that one should turn from it. I would have been miserable hiding my thoughts all the time. I hope she forgives me wherever she is now. Still, I yearn to be as kind and giving as her. She was loved by virtually everyone who knew her. She was probably the last person on earth who loved me unconditionally.