When her son died, my grandmother called my mom and invited her to lunch.
“Is something wrong?” my mom asked.
“I just wanted to see you. Is that all right?” It was a Sunday afternoon.
This was a year before I was born, but mom repeated the story often–always while staring off into space.
So my mom went, and they had lunch. Near the end of the meal my mom finally said, “Are you sure everything is okay?”
“Actually, there is something we need to talk about,” grandmother replied. “Your brother is gone.”
My uncle, Barry, was sleeping in the backseat of a friend’s car when the driver fell asleep. The car hit a wall. They were on spring break.
My grandmother had three children. The first was deaf and institutionalized, the second was my mother, and the third–who of course was her favorite and the bearer of all her hopes and dreams–was now dead. Why is it that is the one who always dies?
My grandmother did have three other children. All girls. Grandmother had married their father and then their father abandoned them. So, Grandmother adopted them, raised them, and called them her girls. But they were never really hers. Their was the problem that my mother had accused their father, her step-father, of rape before he’d taken off–to Alaska where he’d embezzled money meant for widows.
In the photograph my grandmother stands behind flowers sent for Barry’s funeral. My mom has the short brown hair and a hand on my grandmother’s shoulder.
See, true stories sound too contrived to be believed. That’s the way it really happened, some writers say. The way it really happened is a mess. There is no arc, no climax, and no resolution. If I can’t get satisfaction from real life, I’d better get it from fiction.