Episode Seventy Six: It Just Stops

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

About 37,000 feet up, headed toward Kansas City, Missouri. I’m tired, and I’ve had hardly any sleep. I got up at 3:15am this morning.

1.0 It Just Stops

I was in a last-minute conference call with a client when it happened. It was a meeting room down in 3SW, and the kind of thing you do in last-minute conference calls is that you make last minute decisions.

But then my phone rang, and I looked down to see what the caller ID was. It was Sonia[1] Ray, my wife’s mother.

And right then, I knew.

Robin and I have been in a relationship for about thirteen years now, and it’s all the fault of those crazy people who invented the A.I. alternate reality game. We had a long-distance relationship for about 3 years before finally getting married in England. But, from 2002 onwards, I pretty much had Thanksgiving every November with Robin and her family in Missouri.

I realise it sounds a bit cliche, but Sonia and her husband Bob – and their son, Evan – are about as wonderful Midwesterners as you can get. There’s a flagpole outside the farmhouse that, while it would show an American flag, Bob would raise a British one too, when I came to visit. The entire family has been, from the first first time that I met them, the kindest, most considerate family I’ve ever had the fortune to meet, never mind the fortune to marry into and be a part of. And they really, really did invite me into their family. When my parents visited them, they were introduced to corn from the farm (“I didn’t know sweetcorn could be so sweet!” said my dad), and the undeniable cultural experience of being taken to a state fair. My dad still can’t forget all the rabbits.

When I’m in their home, I feel like I’m in my home. It’s quiet. Bob is amazing at the grill. Sonia makes the best pies, and introduced me to grasshopper pie. And, when I needed to do, in their own way, I could ask either of them for advice on whatever was bothering me. And when it’s Thanksgiving and it’s time to do annual tech support, it’s a chore that I don’t mind.

And through Sonia and Bob and their family, I’ve been introduced to their extended family. Something that, again, isn’t entirely what I’d experienced growing up. And I know them all, and I’ve played with them, and although I might have looked bored at time…

I still remember their delight when they found out we’d be moving to the ‘states from London, and even more so when we were able to tell them in person that we were pregnant, and that they’d be expecting their first grandchild soon.

But by then, Sonia had already been diagnosed with stage 4 endometrial/ovarian cancer. Stage 4, I’ve learned, is the too-late stage. It’s the: it’s here, it’s dug in, and we’re not going to be able to cure you.

And then suddenly we were in that horrible race to see if Sonia would live to become a grandmother and see her first grandchild.

She did, and I can tell how happy he made her. We were lucky, because he was such an easy baby, and when Sonia and Bob came out for a month after the birth, we couldn’t have asked for better timing.

But, earlier this year, she wasn’t well enough to come out for Calvin’s first birthday, and my mother wasn’t able to make it out at all. And at that moment, I realised that for me, I wanted – needed, even – Calvin to know his grandparents. Mine were half the world away in Hong Kong when I grew up, so there never really was an opportunity to bond with them. And I didn’t really speak their language. But growing up- and perhaps this is always the way – I could try and find a way for Calvin to have what I couldn’t.

So when that phone rang with Sonia as the caller ID, it wasn’t Sonia on the line. It was Bob, her husband, in tears. Sonia had passed away. She was in Hospice – first on-site and then we managed to move her back home.

I just grabbed my laptop, stood up, walked up two flights of ags, went up to my desk and started calling Delta to arrange flights.

I haven’t been in the office since. I guess I’m lucky in a place where I can do that.

I’m on a plane now.

It’s the second leg, we arrive at Kansas City Airport in another hour or so. A rental car to drive out to the farm, the four of us – me, Robin, our son and my mum.

I don’t really know how to deal with this. Sonia is the first person I’ve been close to who I’ve… lost isn’t the right word. When you lose something, you might get it back, I suppose. She’s just gone. Stopped. Never coming back, never will be, no I don’t want any Tiplerian Omega Point bullshit, no Transcendent crap. She’s gone and she’s never coming back.

I’m so sorry, Sonia. I wish you would get to see Calvin grow up. I wish you would see him walk properly after all this cajoling. I wish you’d been able to tuck him into his bed at night and read him a story. I wish we could send him to the farm to be with you and Bob in the summers. I wish you would teach him how to make your amazing pies. I wish you would see his first school play, his first graduation.

But you won’t, because this world just doesn’t make any sense.

People tell me that she’s at peace now, that she’s not in pain any more. Which is true. But it’s also BULLSHIT. 100% complete and utter bullshit. Because she’s not *anything* anymore. The pattern that she was is gone. The way the energy and atoms lined up just so to make her her and not anywhere is just *gone*. She. Just. Stopped.

There was something there: now there’s not something there.

And that’s just me. My wife’s lost her mother. Lost the person who she could call and ask for advice on how to deal with Calvin and invariably be told that she might be doing it wrong. And Bob has lost a partner of over 40 years. Because we knew this was coming – because of the time in the hospice – we had kind of said our goodbyes. But I can’t tell you how unfair and arbitrary this feels. Only that it hurt.

For Sonia Ray,

The best mother in law I could ever hope for,

I love you.

[1] Sonia Ray, pronounced like Sonny-and-Cher