When I received the news that my aunt passed away of dementia at an early age, I shut down. She was the mother that I never had, and I didn't know how to handle her passing unexpectedly early. That, on top of a concussion from ice hockey, I felt like I was both emotionally and physically losing my mind.
On my son's first day of camp last summer, I was simultaneously trying to not space out from my concussion and appear friendly to everyone who was seeing me. I was numb inside from the news of her death and in the early stages of grieving, but didn't want anyone seeing. Just like when I was a kid, I withheld emotion to appear as emotionally strong everyone knew I was.
As I lifted my other toddler up the stairs struggling, she came over and extended her arms to offer me help as she was walking down.
"I got you, don't worry," Y smiled at me. She always somehow knew when I was struggling; whether something was weighing on my mind or I was having trouble lifting two boys up the stairs having meltdowns.
I was always that odd mom out among the moms in my son's class. She was the opposite: everyone gravitated towards Y and she stood among the big group of moms making jokes and being much more at ease that I am in a big group. Sometimes she would glance over and smile at me. I felt my heart flutter. I had never felt this about another woman, but there was something about her. Maybe her familiarity? I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
A couple months earlier, we bonded over the fact that we were the only two moms in the class who were/are jocks. Y began talking about sports at the Mother's day party in the classroom. She asked the moms if they ever played any sports growing up. The room grew awkwardly silent until she looked at me and matter-of-factly told me she knew I did. I suppose there was no hiding it in my tomboy-ish clothing. I smiled and nodded as she smirked at me. A warmth filled my chest.
"You bitch. Fuck you. Just get over it already," my husband told me three days after my aunt passed away. I leaned forward and buried my face in my hands. I sobbed, and for the first time in my life, I hoped he would notice. I never felt comfortable crying in front of anyone, but this time I wanted him to know just how badly he hurt me.
He walked out and slammed the door. I was left to mourn my aunt's death all alone. I never talked about it with my family since we don't talk about these kind of things.
A week prior I had seen my aunt in the hospital. I knew it would be the last time I would see her. I sat there at her bedside and cried; hiding the tears swelling in my face. She had been through an abusive marriage when she was younger, took care of her 4 children all three years within each other, on her own with just a high school education. I wish I could have asked her how she did it and if she could give me the strength the get through it. She passed away just as I made the revelation that her life was very similar to mine.
The summer passed by in the blink of an eye while my husband and I were on better terms with him being home for the summer and not under the stress of teaching. This was a common cycle in our marriage after 9 years.
The last day of camp rolled around and when I saw Y walking out. I ran up to her and apologized about never following through with making summer plans. She kept asking me over and over if I wanted to take our kids to the pool together, but I just kept saying I would get back to her. I told her my aunt passed away and I spent the whole summer grieving her. She was very sympathetic and understanding. There was that feeling in my chest again. I walked out of there smiling for the first time that summer.