Mother died in church. She had a stroke, fell over in the pew and never regained consciousness. My father said that her last words were, “I want to go home.”
Many people told me that since she died in church, she must have gone straight to Heaven. I think that that kind of knowledge belongs in the vast and foggy area off “nobody knows for sure,” But if there is a heaven, then I’m sure that Mother went there first class, on a direct flight, without any of the baggage that most of us have to carry around. Of course, my Mother’s passing was a source of great sorrow for my Father, my brother and myself and to all the people who loved her because there was a great deal about my mother to love. But the grief that my father felt was accentuated by the timing of her death. Off and on for years, he had instructed her in things like pilight lights and leaves in the gutters and who to call when the plumbing wash’t working as it should.
And then my mother died first. She had never instructed my father in the aspects of their marriage that were almost exclusively in her domain. It never occurred to her to do so, because she was destined to be a widow some day, but he would never be a widower. That was just the way hit worked. It was the American way.
So my father was left without a knowledge of household things like cooking and grocery shopping. But a larger difficulty was that he was left without my mother’s social skills. She was always the one who planned dinners for family and friends. She was the who was always on the phone setting things up, bringing all kinds of people into their lives. She furnished their future with her enthusiasm and her imagination.
After my mother’s death, my father told me,”I don’t have anything to look forward to any more.” That’s when I started going home more often to spend some time with him.
We had never been close. My mother had been the go-between and the interpreter between us. We spoke different languages when we spoke at all, and she would fill in the silences and smooth over the misunderstandings. Without her my visits home were awkward for both of us.
My father was not a warm and outgoing person. At least he seemed that way to me. I felt that he kept me at a distance. He didn’t hug. Not that I wanted him to.
I felt that hugging was an upper body that has to be completed with dispatch and, if at all possible, avoided. We shook hands. Even that was incomplete. He never let the handshake go all the way, palm to palm. The valleys between our thumbs and forefingers were never filled.
It was coitus interrupts.