Everything and Nothing: Good sons, good daughters

Aïda Rogers

Posted 10/16/23

By Aïda Rogers

The news came as it usually does these days – by text. Ben, my sister’s classmate since kindergarten, wanted us to know his mother, Cynthia, had been diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer. Could she visit our mother tomorrow? Our mom and his were close, friends since 1963.

Of course, my sister texted back, and then forwarded the sad news to us, excluding our mother, who feels terrible these days. Cynthia knew Mom wouldn’t be able to come visit her. Two o’clock was set.

I was there when Cynthia arrived, looking beautiful and like nothing was wrong. Her daughter Sissy brought her. After hugs all around and canes and walkers put aside, elderly parents and middle-aged daughters settled in for a catchup. There was laughter. Chitchat. Nothing special.

Eventually Cynthia broke the news to Mom in her calm, pleasant way. First there was shock. Then came entreaties to “go to Duke,” something people around here say a lot. But mostly there was teary recognition of a friendship based on love, respect and fun – one that started before all their children were born, when they were two young moms driving station wagons and volunteering in a town that wasn’t yet home. Where had the time gone, they wondered. Cynthia has great-grandchildren. Mom’s first is coming in February.    

When you’ve lived in the same town and been friends for 60 years, your roots go deep and entwine. The branches reach out for each other, just as Cynthia’s children reached out for us and we reached back.

Not too many days later, Ben texted my sister. His mother had passed away peacefully the night before. He asked her to tell our family and said when and where the funeral would be. Our father delivered the news, personally, to our mother.

Mom planned to go to the funeral, but in the end didn’t. She wasn’t up to it. But her husband and four children went. We sat in the third pew from the front, close so Daddy could hear, but maybe, also, to show a sort of solidarity with the family, united as we are by the matriarchs. We heard wonderful things about a wonderful woman who was close enough to us to come to the back door when she visited.

After the service, my brother, sisters and I made a beeline for Cynthia’s two sons and daughter. It was important for all of us to tell all of them how much our mother loved theirs. And how sorry she was she couldn’t come to the funeral.

“You tell her that visit was all Mama needed,” Sissy reassured us. We hugged her. We hugged Ben. We hugged Robert, the way-younger brother we don’t know that well but feel like we do. The seven of us smiled at each other – it seems now we were positively beaming – surrounded by a throng of people in a church fellowship hall.

Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.

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