For the rest of my life I will wonder how much I actually did and did not know about what was going on with my mother when she was ill. Ever since my epiphany that day at Ellen’s house, I have been trying to figure out if I ever really believed that my mom was going to get better (like my dad wanted me to), or if I actually knew, deep down inside, that she was going to die all along. It is a very difficult question to answer. Because, even though I have absolutely no memories of ever having said to anyone (including myself) that my mother was dying, the day that she died I wasn’t the least bit surprised to learn that she was gone.
As I have already mentioned, she died in October (on a Monday). On that particular day, I rode my bike over to my friend Natalie’s house to play after I got home from school. I remember leaving my father a very detailed note telling him exactly where I would be and what I would be doing because we had had some sort of argument a few days before about his not always knowing where to reach me.
Natalie and I spent the afternoon engaged in a super-important secret project. Her parents had given us a gigantic cardboard box – their new refrigerator had arrived in it the week before – and we were upstairs in the spare room on the third floor carving it into a clubhouse with two very dull steak knives.
As we struggled to cut through the thick cardboard, we felt like frontiersmen building a log cabin. We kept proclaiming, over and over again, that we were equal to boys in every way (no matter what our “ex-friend,” that awful boy Jeremy Breyer thought). And, we laughed out loud as we envisioned how we would torture him with our cool “Girls Only” clubhouse once our masterpiece was complete.
My father arrived to pick me up earlier than usual, and I remember being afraid that I was going to get into trouble for going to Natalie’s house, despite the fact that I had left a detailed note. But, my dad didn’t say anything to make me think that he was mad at me. In fact, he drove the two blocks home without saying a word.
When we got inside the house, he sat me down on the couch in the sunroom. It is a very old, uncomfortable couch, and I remember that I could feel it scratching against the back of my legs even though I was wearing my favorite pair of jeans. I also remember desperately wanting to stand up so that I could make the itching stop…but I didn’t.
There we were, father and daughter, just sitting in the sunroom (which wasn’t very sunny on account of the fact that day was quickly turning into night). We sat there, in silence, for what felt like hours (but was probably only minutes, maybe even seconds) when, suddenly, before my father had even opened his mouth to speak, I started to sob – hysterically and uncontrollably.
I knew. Without a word, I knew that she was gone. Mommy was dead.
How did I know? I guess that somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, I always knew that she wasn’t going to get well. Or, maybe, it was because my dad sat me in the sunroom.
We never sat in the sunroom. Ever.