my mom has this unfortunate habit of leaving me the following voicemail:
s. it's your mom. i need you to call me as soon as you get this message.
after calling her back in a tizzy, i learn that she has recently discovered my old cheerleading shorts or that hotplate i took with me to college and she needs to know if she should keep it.
i have never gotten one of these voicemails from my dad, though. not until today.
with my dad it's different. he usually doesn't even leave a message, comfortable that i'll see his missed call and just call him back. but today he left me this message:
s. it's dad. you need to call me when you get this message. you really need to call me when you get this message. um, yeah. call me.
this is a voicemail i never want to get again from my father. and the fact that i then called him four times in a row with no answer did not help. no one answered at home either. finally, i got my mom on her cell. she asked me if i'd tried to call my dad first, and then she told me to sit down.
it took a few minutes for my brain to wrap around the news. it was a little like she started speaking in pig latin and i had to decipher every word individually - and not until my dad got on the phone and told me i could google my great aunt and uncle's hometown and the words murder suicide to find the story did i actually attach that phrase to the news.
i wasn't terribly close with these particular family members - in fact, my most distinct memory of them is hearing my great uncle tell my parents they were wasting their money on music lessons because i wasn't going to make anything of myself. not the warmest of people. so i'm not sad for myself, not mourning for a close family member whose absence is going to impact my quality of life. but my grandmother, she is another story. she's crazy and judgmental, it's true. but she's my grandma, and i love her, and she loves me. and now she has lost her brother when she didn't have to. i've heard her cry plenty in my lifetime, but this was different. this was full-on weeping. it was from the gut, not crying to make anyone feel guilty or because she thought crying was the thing to do crying. this was sobbing, it was raw, and it was hard to take. she told me about the last time she talked to her brother, how he'd promised her he was going to look into getting help taking care of his wife, and how he spontaneously started crying and then pulled himself together just as quickly. i could tell she was already wondering if she could have stopped him.
later, on the phone with my brother, he said he had just emailed me a news article that included a photograph of the two. i don't know about him, but this 15 year old picture was exactly how i remembered them from childhood. even knowing they'd grown old since my childhood, i still pictured them at that age - around 65, old, but newly old. we just sat there, my brother and i, silent, both staring at the photograph from our computer screens hundred miles apart, shaking our heads. when he finally said softly, are you there sis? that's when it really hit me ... what my grandma must be going through. through the fog of a couple of decades i could remember my grandma being called sis by her brother, too. all the time.
i can't imagine what it must be like to lose a brother. and i certainly can't imagine the depth of that pain or what part of one's heart losing a brother like that must tear at.
i need brownies.