Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Note: I have Gary's permission to tell this story.
In 1992, my second year in grad school, Mom had a stroke. After she got out of the hospital, my sister, uncle, cousins and I descended on her apartment. Gary, whom I'd then been dating for three years, came too, to try to support all of us.
It was a very small apartment with entirely too many people in it. The calmest person in the place was my mother, lying comfortably in bed. The rest of us were basket cases.
When it came time for me to leave, I stood at my mother's bedside and burst into tears. Gary, waiting in the doorway, watched me.
"Gary?" my mother said, gently. "Susan's crying."
"Yeah," Gary said, matter-of-fact. "She does that sometimes." (Everyone who hears the story falls over laughing at this line. What can I say? Gary's a guy. He likes to be able to fix things. He can't fix my being sad.)
"Gary?" my mother said, even more gently. "Give Susan a hug." So he did: a very good hug, too.
This has become one of our favorite family stories, and whenever I'm upset about something now, I say, "Gary? Give Susan a hug."
The other night I had a wave of sadness about Mom right after I went to bed. I always turn in earlier than Gary does. I lay in bed, sniffling, while he worked on the computer in his study. After a few minutes, I heard the bedroom door open, and thought maybe he'd come in for a different pair of glasses. But instead I felt his hand on my shoulder, and when I opened my eyes and looked up at him, he said, "When you're crying, I'm supposed to give you a hug."
Mom lives on.