Thursday, April 21, 2011

A phone call to remember...

Mama’s Losin’ It

I chose to write on two prompts this week for Mama Kat's writer's workshop.
As it turns out, one was about my Mom and the other about my Dad.

One prompt asked us to describe a phone call we'll never forget.  While I don't remember the EXACT details, I do know this much...

I was in high school, a Junior, I think.  I was still driving my "first car" a hand-me-down from Mom and Dad.  On this particular day, Dad was doing some minor maintenance to said car out in the driveway of our house.  I don't remember if it was summer or fall; a week day or week end...there wasn't really anything unusual about this day.

Until the phone rang...

It was my aunt, my Dad's younger sister.  She immediately asked if he was home and so I went to get him.  In hindsight, I should have thought this odd.  I come from a family of talkers on both sides, and for her to say almost nothing to me should have been a sure giveaway...something was wrong.

But I missed it.  Instead I went to get my Dad and he came into the kitchen and took the call.
I stood there with him listening to his side of the conversation which was very limited.  He said un-huh every now and then; he asked a few vague questions.

But you know how you can just feel a mood shift?  A sort of heaviness falls over things and even if you can't quite put your finger on it, you know it - something's not right.

As the mostly-one-sided conversation progressed, I could sense more and more this feeling of dread.  By the time Dad hung up the phone, I knew - something terrible had happened or was about to.

So I asked, "what's wrong?"

And I'll never forget his response:

"My Sister's Dying." And with that he walked out the door and drove off in my car.

Even now as I try to tell it, it makes me cry.

That may have been the first time I ever saw my father cry.  It may have been the most upset I'd ever seen him. I remember being truly stunned! At the time, I didn't know if he meant the sister who'd just called or the other sister who was a little older than him.  (In a family of 9 total children including half-siblings, and one adopted sibling, my Dad was what they called the "knee-baby" meaning next to the baby.  He was sandwiched between the two girls of the family.)

So I don't know how I ever got all the details, but the gist is this...  My Dad's baby sister called to explain that the older sister had just been diagnosed with a very progressed cervical cancer.  She'd been in severe pain for months, perhaps longer, and only went to the doctor when things truly became unbearable.
A tumor the size of a football had engulfed her female organs as well as several others.
She was given about 6 months to live.

I was in high school; her kids were in elementary school.
She lived about 600 miles away from us.
Surgery wasn't really an option because of the severity of her tumor.

It was devastating.  Even as a teenager, all I could think was, "those poor kids, losing their mother so young."

And they did...6 to 9 months later, I don't remember precisely.  Really the amount of time isn't important because it was too soon.
We wondered if the kids were in denial; they seemed too "together." Until the family visitation at the funeral home...they fell apart.  And who could blame them? I can't imagine seeing my Mother in a casket now, much less when I was 12 years old!

It's a shame that when we lost their Mom, we sort of lost them too.  She was the connection between us and them.  Their Father stayed in the far away state where they lived and we pretty much never saw them again.

So while the details aren't sure and the events, at best, fuzzy, the phone call is one I'll always remember.


  1. oh wow, that is really sad. I'm so sorry. Maybe one day, when the timing is right, God will provide a way for you to reconnect. I can only imagine how hard that is. (((hugs)))

  2. how sad for your dad. it is hard as well when we lose the people that are the glue that holds extended family together.

    gran was our glue and although i hear bits and pieces here and there and face book helps, it is not the same without her updates about family we didn't see often.

  3. These phone calls are so terrible and they have such a massive impact on our lives forever. I mean, we really will never be the same. I guess without these calls how would we ever learn about these events that we must know about. There certainly will never be a way to prepare for them that's for sure.
    Thanks for reading my post about my phone call too. I'm now your newest follower. : )

  4. This really broke my heart. I cannot imagine getting a call like this or the kids losing their mother at such a young age. I'm sorry that you lost touch with them too.