Your boyfriend died this weekend.
I didn’t know what to do or what to say when Ryan texted me. I actually wrote that. “I don’t know what to say.”
A common theme in our relationship, besides your drinking, has been your men. Specifically, you choosing men over your children.
The first choice you made was Uncle Larry, as you had us call him. You cheated on Dad with him. After the divorce, Uncle Larry would come over to our townhouse when Ryan and I went to sleep.
There was one night we had crawled into your bed to read books with you and when I woke up, the bed was wet. I went downstairs to find you and Uncle Larry at the kitchen table talking over coffee. I asked you where did you go, when did you leave us?
“One of you wet the bed,” you said laughing with Larry.
I began to cry, embarrassed, and ran back upstairs. You called out after me as I ran up the stairs, still laughing, and I slammed my bedroom door.
The second man you chose over us was Big Jim. We called him Big Jim because he was immensely fat- the kind of fat that had a specific smell to it. He was a handy man and self-proclaimed chef. Big Jim had several children by his first wife and he never spoke to any of them.
You didn’t take that as a sign.
Big Jim always thought he was right and we never got along because of it. One time, I left a pot of Lipton Extra Noodle Soup on the stove. The noodles had absorbed most of the liquid and Jim saw that as something he could fix. He added chicken broth to the pot and watered down the soup, making it void of flavor. He was convinced that he made it better and we got into a screaming match.
You came to me after the dust settled, told me Jim was stubborn and that he’s not good with kids. You said you tasted the soup and that I was right, that he had ruined the soup. “Casey,” you said, “I have to make this work. You’re going away in a couple of years and he’s still going to be around.”
Fat chance of that happening, right?
That brings me to your last man, Ed. You were coworkers at the Post Office for years. He lived in his family’s house and drove the same, beat-up truck for decades. He visited his mother, father, and brother’s grave site every Sunday- a tradition you took up with him.
The two of you picked me up once from college for Christmas. He barely spoke a word the whole drive from New Brunswick to Manahawkin. Then he kept to himself throughout dinner and barely spoke when presents were exchanged. When I asked you why he wouldn’t talk much, you said he was afraid of me.
What did you say about me that could have made him frightened of me?
The second time I saw Ed was the Christmas Grandma died and the third was the Christmas after Grandma died. The third would be the last time I saw him because he kept throwing the N-word around and that’s something I don’t tolerate.
I shouted at Ed and it shut him right up.
Now Ed’s dead.
I got the text from Ryan Saturday morning. “Mom called me at 5 a.m. this morning and told me Ed died,” he wrote. “She was crying and sounded very sad.”
I spoke to Aunt Patty earlier in the week and she told me Ed had been sick for a few days. She said you wanted to get him to the hospital, but he refused. She tried calling you on your birthday without success and then called you a couple days after but your phone line went out.
“I don’t know what to say,” I wrote back to Ryan.
You made Ed your everything. You moved into his house, you shifted your work schedule to match his, and you wanted him to marry you. He had never married, never had children, and lived in the same house his entire life.
Now I’m at a loss of what to do. Should I call you? Should I text you? Should I leave you another message on your voicemail? I don’t know where you live, you never return my calls, and in our estranged family: we don’t have funerals.
The only thing I can do is convince myself that you made your choices and I have to make mine.
And for that, I’m sorry for your loss.