My mother’s brother was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 19. We lived with him after my parents divorced. He loved the NFL and Jack London and my mother and me. He made it into his fifties on a borrowed kidney and books on tape, but once he was told that he’d have to lose a foot, he was done.
Of course, I’ve always known what it’s been like to be my mother’s daughter, but lately I’ve been thinking about what it’s been like to be my mother, full stop. She’s often reminded me that it hasn’t been an easy life, which can be a hard thing to hear in the wrong moment: I don’t want to compete in a game of who has the achiest heart. But if I can somehow not be her daughter for a while, which I say with love, I can appreciate what she’s had to endure.
Let’s now imagine for a moment my mother. She’s tired. Her brother just died. Now she’s traveled back to her home state and is in one of those grey and blue and white hospital rooms with the curtain that slides along a metal track. An old woman is in the bed, an old woman who never particularly wanted a daughter but who adored her son. That woman, her mother, has been in a coma for a few weeks due to complications from ovarian cancer. But she’s recently emerged, alive and alert.
Now, it’s time. My mother must tell her mother that her son has died.