I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but I didn’t have time for that. My little sister was reading her eulogy beautifully. She made the crowd laugh at some humorous memories of our mother. She looked at me for encouragement and continued. My dad held my hand, smiling at the stories, but you could see the sadness in his eyes. He did lose the love of his life and best friend after all. My older sister was not at my side like planned since she was very ill and could not come to the funeral. Hence, I sat there calmly, like I had it all together. But of course, that was a lie.
Mom’s death was not a complete surprise. Her cancer had been getting worse, and there were no signs of improvement. We all prepared ourselves for it. We told ourselves it was coming. We made a visit to the hospital to say our “goodbyes” before it was too late. Regardless of how much you tell yourself that something is coming though, it is still a surprise to some extent. The pain you imagined is no longer hovering over you, but washing over you, through you.
The days before the funeral, my two sisters and I spent countless hours together. We rehashed old stories of our mother. Some were funny and made us smile. Others were harsher and made us feel a sense of guilt over our pain and anger. We asked each other, are we allowed to still be upset about this now that she is dead? Does her death negate the mean things she did? That is a hard question to answer and one that must be decided individually, at least in my opinion. However, I do think there is a tendency to martyr people after they die, like the bad never happened. My sisters and I were not all at that stage though. So we talked and talked about our feelings as we sorted through mom’s belongings that dad laid before us.
The stories revealed that each of us had similar, but yet different, relationships with our mother. There were plenty of good times of course, but there were some substantial bad ones as well. The bad times covered everything from ugly words to physical violence to her disowning grandchildren. Some behaviors could be explained and forgiven. Others could not.
Thorough this whole grieving weekend, my boyfriend at the time was relentless. At first, it was relentless caring texts. Are you OK? Hang in there sweetie. I’ll be here when you get home. After three days though, the tone changed. If you have time for that. I don’t want to bother you. If I was important enough, you would make time. Now, I say tone because even though these were texts, I knew him well enough to get the tone. I could feel his anger and attitude. So while I was pouring over piles of my mother’s belongings with my sisters, I was getting and sending all these texts. It was interrupting our grieving. It was stressing me out.
Ironically, when I left home, I reminded him that I didn’t know how much time I would have to call, and that I tended to not be so chatting when I was upset. So I told him, I would text him. I sent him multiple texts during the day. At the airport. Taking dad to lunch. It is weird my mom not being here. I don’t know if I can do this. I feel like I am going to lose it. I was communicating in a form that I could, reassuring HIM while being strong for my family. Heck. I was practically sending hourly Twitter-like updates, so it was not like he didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t like I just disappeared for days with no trace. Unfortunately, that was not good enough because I didn’t pick up the phone to call. I couldn’t. I was almost never alone and I wanted and NEEDED to spend this time with my family. I wasn’t ready to talk about what I was going through. I wanted to finish going through it before I tried to deal with it. There was also the fact that if I called him, I knew I would break down and cry. I didn’t have time for that. So I text.
Now, with all that said, there is one other factor that I know I mentioned to him over the months we dated, and that was my basic belief on phone etiquette: if I am with people, I try to spend time with them and not be on the phone. Yet, here I was texting and texting replies to his anger and accusation. People that love each other, call each other. I thought I was important enough to you for you to talk to me. I am tired of begging for your attention. It was draining. Freaking utterly draining. But it continued and continued until I called.
I don’t remember what was said but it was not what he wanted to hear apparently. Shortly after our call he text me. I am tired of begging for your attention Michelle. So you don’t have to bother yourself with me when you get home. I am done. I stared at the phone in disbelief. Did he really just break up with me via text the day of my mother’s funeral? For a moment, I panicked. I wanted to call him. I wanted to say I was sorry. He was right, I should have called. Then it hit me. I should not be told how to grieve. I should be allowed to grieve. I did nothing wrong. So I replied something to the extent that I was done too. Are you really doing this? Right now? This way? OK. You will get what you wanted. Do not call me again.
Of course, he called. Oh. My. Goodness. He called and called and text and text. Eventually, I turned off my phone. I could not handle anymore. But I stayed strong. I did not cry. I did not break down. I simple made my way back home. By the time I walked into my house, I realized a few things and there was no going back to that toxic relationship. It dawned on me that if this man could not handle my four-day absence to mourn my mother, he would never be able to support me on my next deployment. If this man did not understand that I was just not ready to “talk” about what was going on then, he did not know me very well. If this man could not support that time with my family then, it would never get any better. If this man refused to be patient with me at a time like that, I could never expect anything more. If this man used manipulation and demands to get his way, it could only escalate in the future.
I thought about the seven months we dated prior to my mother’s inconvenient death that annoyed this man so greatly. The signs were all there. It had gotten worse over time. I just chose to ignore it. I wanted to work through it, not just give up when things got hard. That’s the thing though, when my mom died, that was hard for me….and he just gave up on me. He wasn’t there for me. He was there for him. And once I grasped that, I said goodbye to him. Too bad all that drama interrupted my goodbyes to my mother though.