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“When I was 11, my mother was bedridden. I knew she was sick, but I couldn’t comprehend the severity of her illness. My dad couldn’t accept my mom was dying.
I overheard my dad talking to the doctor on the phone. Dad said, ‘If anything happens to her, I will haunt you for the rest of your life.’ I don’t think the doctor recognized she was dealing with a major health problem. I think my dad recognized it, but the doctor didn’t.
Years later, a different doctor said my mom probably had been suffering from a leaking brain aneurysm. She lived with frequent high fevers and was often in the hospital. One time, a nurse asked for a diagnosis of what was actually wrong with my mom, and the doctor just said, ‘Fever!’ Medicine then wasn’t what it is today, and doctors, as a rule, weren’t questioned.
Thinking back, I think it is fair to say my father and my brother each had their own methods of coping with the loss of our mom. My father had always worked crazy hours at the diner that bore his name. He worked even more after my mom died. He found a way to add to his seven day per week schedule.
My brother, who was five years my senior, had neighborhood friends to hang with. I was basically alone.
Compounding the problem, I was just entering junior high school, and my dad sent me to a school other than the one all the neighborhood kids were going to. While he probably meant well, thinking the school he chose had better academics, the shift left me feeling particularly alone. I rarely went to school, and no one from school reached out to my dad to try to help the situation.
When you are that young, you don’t really develop any coping skills. In hindsight, I guess someone was watching over me, keeping me protected during all my crazy unsupervised antics — like taking the catering truck out when my dad was out of town.
I also give credit to Grandpa Donovan, Uncle Frank, and Uncle Joe — my mother’s father and her two brothers — for their interest in my, and later my family’s, well being. They didn’t live in town, but they made sure to make frequent visits to check in on me. Their visits were made difficult when my dad remarried a woman who was not a good person. In fact, one of the first things she did when she married my dad was remove all the pictures of my mom from the house. My guess is she threw them all away.
I was lucky the neighborhood families and moms all looked out for me. I can remember the moms being loving to me, giving me hugs and things like that. In retrospect, I realize they probably felt sorry for me since I had lost my mom. When I was 11, I didn’t really understand that.
At the age of 13, I met three of my closest lifelong friends. I was a freshman in high school and they were seniors or already in college. This group further enhanced the already great friendships I had growing up.
We remained close until their passing, or until health concerns made it difficult to get together, and now we remain close via telephone. My friends and their families provided much warmth and loyalty at a time it was really needed. I will always be grateful for that.”
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‘My mother’s brain was leaking for a whole year, undiagnosed. She was bedridden, and I was a cork bobbing in the ocean with no direction.’: Man details childhood memories of mother thanks to StoryWorth
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