A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the third of a four-part piece. To begin at the beginning, go here.
Cape Cod is a wondrous place, and there is a hill on the dunes in Truro where I became friends with Mom. Her parents once owned a house on that hill, and so we would travel there from Virginia for two blissful weeks every June. But that was during my childhood, and it is not the time I am alluding to now.
By my early twenties, the house we once had free access to was no longer in the family. My grandmother died while my mother was in the hospital, that summer of ’69. A few years later, before he died, my grandfather offered the house – at an incredibly reasonable price – to my mother and her two brothers. No takers. Thus went the house.
But it wouldn’t be long before my parents would miss the hill on the dunes in Truro – where everything is peaceful, where nothing goes wrong. So, they pooled their resources with another couple and rented a familiar house for two weeks. It was the summer of ’81, and I easily found two friends who would go in with me on a car rental so that we could drive up from New York to the Cape for a long weekend.
I was settling into adulthood then. I had been out of college for two years, and I was relatively happy with my life as a waitress-by-day/writer-by-night. I was emerging from the sad/angry person whose face had appeared on my original college ID. Mom and I enjoyed each other’s company.
The following summer, my parents and their friends, the Putnams, returned to the Cape. And so I, with a different duo of friends, returned as well. Another easy-going long weekend, another weekend of bonding with Mom.
(Me, growing into the ring.)
A few summers later, Mom and Dad once again made rental plans with the Putnams. Same hill on the dunes, different house. And this time, I was less concerned about who would go with me. I just knew I needed to go. And I planned to be there for a full ten days.
The latter weekend of my stay coincided with the arrival of Martha and her then-husband who drove up from Northern Virginia. (They would be staying the second week.) That latter weekend also featured a visit from our Uncle Gil, Mom’s younger brother. Based in Boston, it was easy for Gil to drive up for an overnight.
The night of Gil’s stay, the Putnams retired to their room after dinner, leaving us, the extended family, sitting around the table. For reasons I cannot recall, the conversation turned to the Accident, and we shared our memories.
Gil talked about receiving a phone call from Virginia. I don’t know if he said who delivered it, but the message was this: “Prepare for your sister’s death.”
He was 39 at the time of the phone call, and he told us that after receiving it, he just went outside and started running around the periphery of his family’s house in Lyme, Connecticut. He just ran around the periphery, frantically singing Beatles songs, he said.
I forget what stories my father and my sister shared that night. I probably had heard them before. I suppose, therefore, they had lost interest to me. I do remember, though, turning around the conversation at one point.
“Mom,” I said. “We always talk about what we were going through while you were in Intensive Care. What were you going through?”
Although I asked the question, I cannot recall the answer she gave that night. And that’s probably because the answer wasn’t complete. But the complete answer did come eventually. It came in pieces, over the next several years.
to be continued (and concluded) on Wednesday, May 25th.