Enriched from two years of college, my world was caving in. My mom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and the diagnosis was not good. My aunt and I packed my secondary school mania and drove more than five hundred miles back home in silence. I went to college with extraordinary enthusiasm and excitement. I left with dread for my future and a heartbroken spirit.
“What will I do without my mom?”
“She is not going to die. She has a good doctor and God will heal her. Your dad needs you now so you must be brave. No tears when you see him, OK?”
My mom’s illness came at the time of my youngest brothers’ high school graduation in May of 1964. I was able to finish my finals early but miss all the end-of-school festivities and merrymaking, so I poured myself into his end-of-year gala. I soon sensed two years had built a wall with former friends and acquaintances. This was his time, not mine.
Despite the sadness of her health issues, it felt good to be home again. Everywhere I went, someone told me they were sorry about my mom’s problems. The teachers I had in high school were really concerned with what would happen to me. They feared I’d never go back to college, a fear that turned out later to be true except for a class now and then.
“What was I to do?” I asked my Senior Chemistry instructor. My mom was not expected to live many more months. I could not turn my back on her needs and my dad and younger siblings.
Finally the big night arrived. My mom accompanied us to my brother’s graduation ceremony. My dad took her home as soon as it was over. I was happy for her and my brother - that she felt good enough to go. It made his night. He wanted me to stand with him in the receiving line, so I parked myself beside him like I belonged.
As the people began clearing out, an old friend walked up to me. We had not seen each other in almost three years and we had lots of catching up to do.
“I didn’t know you got married,” I said to her as my hand danced on her soon-to-be offspring to the world.
“I didn’t.” She laughed.
It was like time stopped. Time stood still. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. All eyes were on me. Gasps and nervous giggles were everywhere. My brother moved away. My face grew hot. My hands were wet. I knew I’d have a heart attack, and at that moment, I would have welcomed one.
My brother was back without his graduation gown and garb. “Are you ready to go home?”
“I should have told you about her. I don’t want to go to the graduation party. Let’s go check on Mom.“
“I’m sorry. I should have left with Mom and Dad.“
As we opened the door to leave the gym, my pregnant friend ran up to us. “Don’t feel bad. I am happy. I’ll let you know when it is born.”
Again silence, more silence. We drove home in silence.
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