My Mother Had Mentioned

September 6, 2013 by Donald E  
Published in Motherhood

“Did my mom know?”
“She had sort of a faint memory of him, but she didn’t really
know what she was remembering until after Dad told me and I asked
her about it. She would have been two when he died. I guess my father
thought all along that she knew the whole story. But she knew
somehow she wasn’t supposed to talk about it.”
And my mother had mentioned Robbie only once or twice to
me; she had almost kept her mother’s silence unbroken.

“Did my mom know?”
“She had sort of a faint memory of him, but she didn’t really
know what she was remembering until after Dad told me and I asked
her about it. She would have been two when he died. I guess my father
thought all along that she knew the whole story. But she knew
somehow she wasn’t supposed to talk about it.”
And my mother had mentioned Robbie only once or twice to
me; she had almost kept her mother’s silence unbroken. Maybe there
was no reason for her to have mentioned him, but the thought filled
me with anger against all the silences that had prevailed in our house
for most of my growing-up, as if what was really the truth about
anything was too dark to be said. I had thought that started with my
parents: a sort of blight that spread so gradually no one could notice it
unless they came into our house from the outside, and even then at
first they’d think we were only being polite around them. But the truth
was, things that mattered didn’t get said when the three of us were
together. My father would try, in his oblique way, to say them to me,
privately; but sometimes he was too considerate, too careful of me, I
thought, to say what I needed to know – or perhaps he gave me too
much credit for already understanding what he wasn’t sure how to
say. And now to discover that this was an inheritance – the reverse of a
treasure – I refused it, I was damned if I’d take it, as it seemed Augusta
had managed to refuse it before me.
The picture was still in my hand; he was just a child to me, a
slightly blurry image at that. He didn’t feel like family. How bad could
grief be, never to be mentioned, to cut him off like that? Wasn’t that the
cruelest thing my grandmother could have done, even to herself,
making the unbearable worse in the only way it could be?
All at once it struck me that the same thing was happening now,
in Augusta’s not telling; maybe she hadn’t been able to refuse the
inheritance after all. And hadn’t I agreed to be her accomplice in this,
to make the same mistake that it suddenly seemed we’d been making
all along?
“Have you tried to reach Allan?” I asked, putting the picture
back, not quite daring to look up for a moment. When I did, I thought
perhaps Augusta had read everything that had gone through my mind,
that she knew I was admonishing her and she didn’t like it one bit.
“I thought I’d give him a chance to get home from work and
take his tie off,” she said. She looked grey again, and I felt a wave of
guilt for having dragged her back from the past, from other people’s
sorrow and happiness. Some help you are, I thought to myself. To try

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