Ever since high school, the first time a major family member died, and I was old enough to be aware of it, I’ve developed a sort of “tick”. Each time my mother leaves me a phone message, and her voice is not happy-go-lucky, I assume someone has died, and brace myself for who it will be.
It didn’t start that way, though. My freshman year, my great uncle died. That may seem like an insignificant relative, but he was more like my second grandfather. My mother and I lived with her Dad, but, to this day, I haven’t connected with my father’s side of the family like I should. So, for the longest time, my grandmother’s sister, my great aunt, and her family were a major part of our lives. When my grandmother died, I was four months old. Aunties took over that role, helping my mother and nurturing me. Uncles, that’s what I called him, died my freshman year.
My sophomore year, one of my mom’s best friends, “aunt” Georgia, died. It was as unexpected as a sand storm in winter. She passed in her sleep one night. I learned about it after school the next day. My mother and I sobbed in the car for about 15 minutes, and then we tried to move on.
Junior year, it was my aunt Sharon. She lived a state away with her two sons. We visited once, before she passed. I remember her being kind, sweet, and boisterously funny. And she looked so much like my mother.
Senior year, it was my grandfather. He passed while I was away in Puerto Rico on a class trip. My Mom didn’t tell me until I was waiting for a connecting flight in New York on my way back home. The day I got back was the day of his funeral. His was a retired police officer and received the full complement of pomp and circumstance. I was glad I was not there to witness it. My mother picked me up from the airport and took me home. I watched a comedy show and cried before taking a nap.
Aunties passed my junior year in college. Ella, as you know, was this past year. I suppose the creator gave me a slight reprieve, some padding to prop me up before the big falls. No one prepares you for this part of life, of being an adult.
I guess, from the series of unfortunate moments in my high school years, of course one would develop a complex. So now, I take a deep breath and try to relax every time my mother leaves a message, asking me to call her back. Who is going to be next?
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