Here is the first story I want to share with you. If you carefully read this story, you will understand how my heart was broken at the age of eight.
How do you love a man who has a broken heart???
[After you read my story, please try to answer this question in the comment box below. I so, so, so await your warm words to me.]
Affectionately yours, aLong
The Small Comfort of my Teddy Bear
I held my warm and fuzzy Teddy Bear tight against my chest. I waited for hours, crumpled on the floor in front of my mother’s door. Sadness overcame me. My dear Teddy Bear was my only comfort and joy.
I could not understand why my mother did not come to tuck me in at night and why she didn’t hold me tight as I recited my nightly “Angel of God” prayer. I missed the lilac scent of her as she listened to me reading stories from my third-grade reader while she washed dishes in her crisp, starched apron. She would tell me daily, “I do like your stories, my dear Son.” I’m sure my stories could help her get well now—if only she would invite me in.
I remember when Dad got his tools and removed the normal bed from my parents’ room. Then huge men came into the house and installed a huge bed with lots of steel bars. My Dad said, “This bed will make your Mom more comfortable.” But that bed was of no comfort to me. And my mother was not “more comfortable” as my Dad had said. I knew what it was to get sick. And I knew what it was to get well. Why then was my Mom taking so long to get well now that she has her new bed?
When I get sick, it’s always a joy to have my Mom fuss over me—taking my temperature, placing a cold washcloth on my forehead, running her hands through my hair, singing me her little songs. Hey, these are the very small comforts that I could bring to my mother now. Why, then, doesn’t she call me to jump onto her big, new bed?
Why has Mom forgotten me? Why doesn’t she call me and ask me to read a story to her? Why doesn’t she allow me to place a cold washcloth on her forehead? Couldn’t she just silently wrap me in her arms and gently rock me for a while? Would this be too much of a comfort to ask?
The hired nurse notices me sulking in the hallway and says, “Go outside and play.” “I want to see my Mom,” I whined. “Your mother is too sick today to have visitors,” she replied. I couldn’t understand this at all. I wanted to yell out, “I’m not a visitor. I live here. I’m her Son.” I was plenty angry. But there was no one to whom I could tell such things save my Mom.
So I made plans on how I might be able to tunnel into her room and bypass the nasty nurse who locked Mom in her bedroom. On another day, I tried to figure out how I might be able to fly through her open window. But my sadness was so heavy that it held me down and prevented me from taking flight. So I settled with crushing my Teddy Bear against my chest.
Then the nasty night of lies arrived. I awoke when I heard strange men talking outside my bedroom door. I got up, grabbed my Teddy Bear, and walked in the darkness toward the sliver of light that seeped out from under my door. When I opened it, I saw two huge men carrying a large and long basket out of my mother’s room. “What’s going on?” I called out to my Dad. “It’s nothing, Son. Go back to sleep.”
The next morning, my Mom’s door was wide open, and the nasty nurse was gone. Seeing my chance, I tossed my Teddy Bear aside and rushed frantically to my Mom’s bed, but I found it empty. I was scared, confused, and angry. I was never to see my dear Mom alive again.
All I would have now is the small comfort of my Teddy Bear.
Some events from my childhood are long forgotten. Others are seared into my memory. Telling you this story, for example, I could recall with a visceral certainty the comforting feeling of my Teddy Bear and visually see the hallway where my bedroom was off to the right and my mom’s bedroom off to the left. Our interior doors were stained dark-oak and the framing matched. The doorknobs were round and made of brass. The wallpaper showed pastel floral designs.
I can close my eyes while writing this story and actually see the wicker basket that was being carried on the men’s shoulders. In a lineup, I could never finger any of the morticians, but I definitely could pick out the wicker basket that they carried from my Mom’s room.
I left out “wicker” in my story because, as a boy, I would not have used this word. On the other hand, I can audibly hear the matter of fact tone of voice that my Dad used when he said, “It’s nothing, Son. Go back to sleep.” I’m 80% certain that these were his exact words. It’s curious that some aspects of the events are very clear while others are fuzzy and THAT I CAN NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE.
My fantasy of flying through the window is also part of this memory. I haven’t told anyone this story until now. Hence, I am quite sure that I didn’t just make this up in order to fill in the story. The fact that the fantasy of flying would never occur to an adult is perhaps a confirmation that even my fantasy life was being seared into my memory.
Most of the activities of my childhood are entirely forgotten. But the events leading up to the death of my mother were so unusual and so traumatic that I cannot ever forget them. To forget them would be to forget who I was and who I came to be.
The Lies Told and the Terrible Silences
My Mom was dying for roughly six months in our own home. As an adult, I discovered that the cancer had spread throughout her internal organs, and no surgery was ever contemplated. Hence, following the medical practice of that epoch, my mom was sent home to die. Morphine was used to take the edge off her pain. This usually led to drug addiction and the dossage had to be increased to the point that my Mom was living in a continuous mental fog. My suspicion is that she entirely forgot her children.
My Dad, meanwhile, decided to keep all of this secret from his own children. He didn’t even have the presence of mind to say anything of significance to his first-born Son. He could of, for example, taken me in his arms and said to me, “Your Mom loves you very much, but, because she is so ill, she is unable to tell you this herself.” He might even have said something as simple as this: “I talked to your mother last night, and she told me that she loves you dearly.”
Even after Mom’s death, my Dad never had the presence of mind to communicate key messages coming from my mother beyond the grave. “Your Mom would have been proud of how well your doing at school” [or “how well your doing with your paper route” or “how well your doing in scouting.”]. Nothing. Total silence. With the death of my mother, I had effectively lost both my parents. I felt that I was orphaned and that I needed to pull myself together and to manage things on my own.
So, there you have it, I invite your reflections in the comment box below: How do you love a man who has a broken heart???
aLong = Aaron
PS: In a few days, I would invite you to tell me a story of tragedy in your own period of growing up. You can copy and paste your story in a comment box below. If you wish, ask me a special question as well.