Every so often, a strange number will show up on my phone, and I’ll immediately ask myself, “Who died?” Because usually, weird numbers mean someone from my family is calling me.
Or someone has stolen my identity, or wants to.
I don’t answer unknown callers anymore. Instead, I wait for the voicemail. Since I’m friends with two of my cousins on FB, I decided to check there while I waited.
And that’s when I saw the news.
“My dad has gone home.”
Heart disease, that fuck, has won again. He died an hour into his open heart surgery. 12 stents. Without it, he had six months to live.
Even though Mama’s shit was about a valve–not blockages–it felt familiar and my heart broke for my cousins.
Uncle Abel was the man who stole Auntie E from North Dakota and took her to Arizona. She built a life down there with him until things fell apart and she married someone else–but he was always my uncle. I remember visiting them in summers–him working on cars or showing her how to roast a chile.
I think my Mama might have stayed in North Dakota had it not been for my Auntie’s trailblazing. She knew, on some level, she’d be okay if she left. And that made her brave. And without that move, I wouldn’t be here.
I haven’t seen my Uncle Abel since I was maybe 12 years old. It’s odd to think of him as an old man. Or sick. But he was.
I can’t go to the funeral, but I offered my ear–my shoulder–whatever you can in such situations without overwhelming them. I will send them food in a few days. We are a family of emotional eaters.
It’s weird to get condolences for a family you’ve lost or never had. But they are as close to real family as I get, so I want to show up for them in some way–even if it’s weird.