We have traversed an unfortunate detour before being able to continue discussing the concept of grace, but we are back on track. Rejoice or gnash teeth as you deem necessary. There has been much discussion these last few months about what point I lost sight of grace, but for the sake of brevity and relevance, it is best to talk about my last living arrangement. It was essentially a long period of isolation devoid of much positive emotion. By that, I mean giving or receiving. When one lives under such harsh circumstances, it is easy to view God as a harsh, emotionally distant being as well.
My sister, Denise, and I had a parting of the ways by default in 1997. She and my mother fell out sometime in the fall while I was at my junior year of college in Columbia. They could both be moody, violatile people, so I never much inquired about the cause of their split. The matter is irrelevant here. Just know that denise cut my mother and me off as a package deal. I expected the situation to turn on a dime as though nothing had have occurred between the two. History indicated that would happen. History did not repeat itself this time for six years. Not until our mother died.
I got the call telling me my mother was dead Friday, March 20, 2003. I was a second year law student in Virginia at the time. The call came from Cindy, a former sister-in-law of Denise’s. The south makes for strange connections. Just go with it. Cindy was going through her divorce around the time Denise disappeared from mother’s and my life. We all hooked up, filling the missing voids we were all carrying around. The ties were still so strong six years hence that she was an approp0riate choice to give me the news. She also said Denise and I needed to bury our mother together.
I confess I was not planning to initiate contact with Denise. Call it pettiness if you wish, but I had suffered through the worst of our mother’s suicide run without any help from Denise on top of having no contact with her period for the previous six years. I did not know if she would even care, anyway. But Denise contacted me through email with her cell phone number. I opted not to refuse the outreach.
I called her after I had booked a flight back home. It was also after I had arranged for Cindy to pick me up at the airport. I was also going to stay with Cindy during the entire time I would be back in South Carolina. I wanted to make sure I had everything in line in order to keep Denise at a safe distance if I was not comfortable with how she acted over the phone. Our conversation was subdued. I asked about my nieces. She told me she knew all about my time at law school, including that I had made it on an academic journal. I decided we would make funeral arrangements together.
When Cindy called me back later that night, I told her Denise and I were going to woek together. She said that was good, because Denise had initially refused to contact me. She had said something along the lines of “He is getting everything. Let him handle it,” so Cindy thought it was great she had a change of heart. It should have served as more of a warning to me. Instead, I assumed Denise much be thinking I would screw it all up without her being in charge. What would it hurt to let her go through the aggravation of the coming red tape to make sure things were all done right? We would part ways again with no fuss or frills. If either one of us felt the need to ditch the other during the process, we could manage it alone.
When I arrived in Hartsville the next morning, denise wanted to see me immediately. I had been up most of the night with a layover in Atlanta. I was not at my best for that sort of thing, but I did it. Denise was not home when I got to her house. I sat with my oldest niece for a spell while I wanted for her. The last time I saw erica, she was knee deep in Barbies. Now she pining for a driver’s license. Cindy went for takeout. I had not eaten since Atlanta, either. Denise arrived while she was still hitting a take out window.
Denise and I went outside to talk. Her house had a carport she used as a covered patio instead. I find it bemusing now that we sat in the deck chairs the furthest respectable distance we could get from each other. She told me she knew about the troubles mother had suffered in the last few yearsw. She knew what I had suffered because of them. She said she had once thought about reaching out to help me, but decided it would just make things worse for everyone. I listened politely, but took everything with a pinch of salt. Experience has made me distrustful of people, particularly those who admit knowledge of my travails after the fact, but did nothing to help. Such has been the case many, many times in the past.
My trepidations were still there, but I decided to go through with working with Denise. She knew me well enough to know I did not trust her. I am sure she knew I never trusted anyone other than myself. We would make funeral arrangements together. We would handle all the wrapping up of our mother’s life. I would stay with Cindy for the duration. We would then see how things progressed/regressed from there.