“Your mom is very sick.” After five years of marriage, I can read the tension on Eric’s face and feel it across the kitchen table in the grasp of his hands.
“And?” I ask. I know there is bad news to come. News that I don’t want to hear.
“Maybe you would like a cool drink. It’s been a hot day,” Eric stalls. We are in the middle of a heatwave and yet I feel a chill run down my spine.
“No. I think I know what you’re going to say.” I had been visiting Mom at Letterman Army Medical Center at Presidio of San Francisco for months, watching her fade away. Dad had mentioned a week before that Mom would be going to Stanford University Hospital to be evaluated by Dr. Shumway, a pioneer of heart surgery.
“Your dad called earlier and asked me to tell you something. Dr. Shumway says there is nothing more that they can do.”
Eric moves his chair back as I shift around the table and fall into his tender hug.
Don’t cry, I think. I’m twenty-four years old and can’t dodge the recurrent reminder of Dad’s words, “Big girls don’t cry.”
“How long?” I ask, trying to maintain composure. My temples pulse.
“Maybe a few weeks.” His words trail off as the tears come. His tears. Not mine. There’s a swift kick in my belly as I try to digest the pain. My mother will not live to see this baby, I realize.
Is Dad crying now? Is that why Eric is the one to break this news? Only Eric will witness my tears.
Four months later I sit in stoic silence at the memorial service as Rev. Boring offers words of comfort at Carmel Valley Community Church. It feels odd to have someone other than my father at the pulpit. My sister, a blossoming teenager nine years younger than me, buries her tears in a lump of tissues. I see my older brother brush his tears away on his coat sleeve. My head pounds with backed up tears. Did I imagine Dad’s gasps and sniffles?
After the service, we gather at the house. It was Mom’s dream come true, this house on the hillside above Carmel Valley. With a glass of wine propped on my growing belly, I feel the touch of my mother’s sister. Her hand is on my belly. “You are so strong,” she says. “You will make a good mom.”