Twilight Zone

Diane died yesterday.  

Diane is my stepmother, was. Or maybe ‘my father’s wife’ is a better description. They dated and then married while I was in my thirties, long after I needed mothering. Sort of—an adult, obviously, but still immature. At the family dinner the night before their wedding, I toasted my wicked stepmother, possibly trying to elicit a laugh from her two teenage children. Whatever.

My brother called me at work with the news. When we hung up, I didn’t know what to do. My dad was still dealing with the people you need to deal with when someone dies. The coroner? The police? I don’t know, someone. I sent Susan a text. Diane died, call me when you want.

I told Vicki, my assistant. She’s really the only person I gab with at work. Susan called, we talked for a while. Then I sat down at my desk and prepared a revenue confirmation letter for the library’s 2021 financial audit. Eventually, it occurred to me that I should be spending time with my father.

When I got home last night, Susan already told our kids and her family. I felt lost, undirected. I should be making calls, informing my circle. I did that when my mother died thirty-eight years ago. Except now I don’t have a circle, no one to call. I told a blogger in his comments. He wrote about the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. My news fit his post; plus, I needed to tell *someone*.

I feel like some people are missing in my life. Diane, sure, but also others I can’t put my finger on. I grew up with Twilight Zone reruns—those black and white mind-bending stories from the fifties. Some disquieting, some outright scary. A disturbing episode I remember recounts the story of two heroic astronauts just returned from a space mission. One of the astronauts swears there was a third person on the voyage, his lifelong best friend, but no one remembers him. Not mission command, not the media, not even his own parents. The ‘false memory’ is chalked up as an unknown effect of space travel.  In time, a second astronaut, then the third disappears from earth. In each instance, no one has any recollection of these people once they’re gone. The show ends with a shot of the empty hangar where their spacecraft once sat.

Sometimes I have a memory of the feeling of a friendship that doesn’t exist. As if a person once there has disappeared without a trace. I can’t remember the person, but I remember the space they once occupied in my life. I’ve felt this way for the past twenty-four hours.

My quick self-psychoanalysis tells me that Diane’s death brought back memories of my mother—the obvious and overarching person missing from my life. For years after she died, I caught myself reaching for the phone to share whatever exciting news highlighted my life. Like that astronaut, I remember her, I remember our exact relationship, but no one else does.

It shouldn’t surprise me that my stepmother’s death left a hole behind, an empty spot, and a searing memory of my own mother’s death. The desire to share the news seems natural to me, necessary, as if talking about it makes it more real and easier to process. If I have a circle outside my wife and kids, it’s the people on WordPress. For better or worse, this is where I share what’s going on in my life, much as I used to with my mother. Instead of the phone, I now reach for my laptop.

45 thoughts on “Twilight Zone

  1. You’ve really nailed it, that we feel a need to share the news with others. I’d never really thought about it before, but I’m remembering texting a daughter when a musician or actor we like has passed.

    I’m pretty self contained with my daughters and a few WP people that have become good friends off-line. None of them live even remotely close to me, but that doesn’t diminish our friendship.

    The internet has caused a LOT of problems, but for hermits like us, it has also given us a community to laugh, rant, and share our news with. Pretty swell if ya ask me.

    My condolences, Jeff🌷

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Angie, It’s not clear to me if the internet has a) rescued me from my introverted nature, or b) exacerbated it. Regardless, I’m thankful for my online friends. It’s helpful to get these personal messages. They get me out of my head. The inevitability of this situation may have been the cause of the writers block I was feeling last week.

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  2. I think you’ honored her humanity the best way you know how. For myself, I don’t think I want a funeral at all because so few people know me well enough to come. A really important person to me expressed the idea that she didn’t want me to be part of her life, and that was after twenty years of trying to reach her and after her divorce. I took me that long to understand. She was raped and got pregnant which was part of her learning process, but she was more than just a victim as I came to belatedly understand. I just had to talk to her again before I could marry someone else. That has little to do with your post, or maybe it does. Anyway, my condolences as well.

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    • I think this is related to my post in the way that: like me, you’ve reached out to a somewhat anonymous (ie, safe) person to talk about something painful. For me, that’s a big draw of the blogging community. I can be 100% authentic about my feelings and not worry about running into you at the grocery store tomorrow. Thanks for your thoughts and condolences. They mean a lot.

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  3. Jeff, we are the gaps in your life, the spaces and just because we don’t take up physical space or gaps in your reality, we are here for you nonetheless. I found your post sad because you appear to be reaching for something but not able to feel the ground of it, the earth, arms, legs whatever. We sense our organs, we know they are there because we understand anatomy. Yet often we become discombobulated from our own bodies. The WordPress community is kind of like that – we are as real as your organs that you can’t see – just out of view beneath your skin – in your mind. We are there for you. And just as real as anyone else. I have three dogs and am currently sat eating lunch and not a healthy one either – I’m reading your post, reaching out through my words, touching your mind and saying “I’m sorry for your loss and for all the strange feelings it conjures up. They’ll eventually pass, you’ll process them but in the gaps and spaces – there’s real people waiting quietly for you to post and tell us you’re okay” I don’t know if I have explained that quite well enough – I hope you get it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Kate, I think you’ve explained this really well. I promise I don’t take my wordpress friendships for granted. The people I communicate with here are hugely important in my life. At the same time, I’ve got a nagging “should” in my head the focuses on the missing “IRL” friends–and I don’t use that term to indicate that WP friends aren’t real, just that I don’t see them. Your organ analogy is a good one. I rely constantly on parts of my body I can’t see and know are there and supporting me. A good reminder that you, et al, are the same way.

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  4. How lovely to be part of the circle you can share with.
    I am sorry about your Stepmother.
    She was part of your family circle and, of course, there will be an empty space.
    I have four “kids” and I adopted one of my grandkids.
    Whenever I want to share something with the family I just phone my elder son(53) tell him what has happened, and say don’t tell anyone.
    Within minutes everyone knows!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • HaHa. My brother, my step siblings and I are constantly posting to our group chat. As soon as my father tells one of us something, we all know it. I suspect it drives him nuts. Thanks for checking in. I’m very grateful for my WP circle today.

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  5. Hi Jeff. I am sending my best to you and your family now. I appreciate how evocatively you capture the strangeness of loss, how moments like this have a way of calling attention to this pervasive feeling of accumulated griefs, that is there more than most of us will admit––like being “. . .with a shot of the empty hangar where their spacecraft once sat.” May Diane be remembered and celebrated with love.

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  6. I’m so sorry to hear. A very haunting description of loss. I will be thinking about the empty hangar and the missing astronauts that no one remembers for a while. I find myself reaching for the phone often too to call my dad though he’s been gone for years.

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    • Thank you Dawn. It’s nice to hear that the twilight zone bit worked. I assume everyone has somewhat equal grief when they lose a parent, but my mother dying really knocked me for a loop. Decades later I still miss her. After reading this post, my wife has asked that I tell some stories about her since they never met. I think that will do me some good.

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  7. I’m glad you chose to write about this, Jeff. I understand how you may be feeling. Your dad too. The vacuum or vacancy after your stepmother’s death is significant and is sure to resurface other losses. Take care.

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  8. Jeff, I’m so sorry to hear your sad news. It’s perfectly understandable that your stepmother’s death brought back painful memories of losing your mum – and you were still relatively young then too. I think everyone we’ve loved and lost leaves a different shaped hole or space in our lives, souls and hearts and although we can try and fill that space with other things, that person-shaped spot is always there in one form or another. I lost my Mum six years ago, and like you, I still go to pick up the phone in the evenings, just like we did every day when she was here. It hurts less now, but no one else can fill that space in my life.

    I’ve only just ‘met’ you on this blogging platform, so I’m glad that you’re able to get love and support from your fellow bloggers here. I hope your hurt heals quickly. Please, give my condolences to your family too. Be gentle with yourself, Jeff. Ellie x

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    • All of those different shaped holes are starting to accumulate a pretty big chunk of real estate on my blog. I don’t really think of myself as old, but it’s sobering how many of my contemporaries have already died. My mom was really young when she died (10 years younger than I am now–and that’s after being sick for 6 years). It’s hard for me not to think about her and focus on what a rip off it all was. And also to not lament that we never had an adult relationship. I’m sure there will be more along this vein to follow. Have you written about your mom in a way you want to share a link?

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      • How are you doing today, Jeff? No, you’re not old and you were still young when you lost your mum. It must have been really hard to see your mum so sick for all those years too. As we grow and age, more and more people that we’ve known leave our lives. Although the hole or space of losing someone rarely gets filled (in my experience) and if it does, it’s like a different piece of the jigsaw of our life. The pain gradually gets more bearable.

        I was lucky to have been able to have an adult relationship with my Mum but as our parents age, the roles tend to reverse, or at least, that was the case with me and Mum. My Mum had had a major stroke which left her helpless to do anything for herself at all, barely even smile as the stroke had affected her face as well as one side of her body. Overnight, she lost all her hard-fought independence and she couldn’t really speak either which was incredibly frustrating for my proud Mum. She lived for a few weeks after the stroke but her quality of life had been affected greatly and she never really recovered. I did write a post about Mum’s stroke at the time. As you asked, here is a link to my post about that time. I don’t know if the link will work as I haven’t tried this before: https://elliethompson.uk/2016/11/26/grief-without-death/

        Please, take care of yourself today, Jeff, and I’m sending healing wishes to you and your family. Ellie

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  9. I feel this too! I don’t have a circle. When something big happens I find myself talking to my dogs who just stare at me and occasionally do the questionable head twist thing. I do miss the WordPress family I had developed here. Unfortunately, I feel like I had a following of people on my blog from my personal life that weren’t there to help me. Things that I wrote, for them, were more fodder for gossip on the streets. I am sorry for your loss and the hole that Dianne’s loss opened. Thanks for sharing with us. Thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please start blogging again… a new site, new subject matter, no names. I’m positive it will be exceptional. We’ll all follow you. I was kind of iffy about posting this one. I’m glad I did. I got a lot of good vibes from the comments. My cats don’t even look at me when I talk to them.

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  10. Sorry for the loss Jeff, the double loss in a sense as one triggers the other. I do like the transition you made in this piece though over to the Twilight Zone story, that was good. And then back to the recognition of the role blogging plays in your life. Interesting, it seems to have grown in my life too. Glad we connected! Hang in there and hope your dad is okay too. Guessing he doesn’t have the blogosphere to lean on like you do.

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    • Thanks Bill, and thanks for the validation on the essay format (that’s what I’m *really* looking for in the comments section. No, my dad isn’t a blogger. I think it would be cool if he got involved in some sub-reddits but I don’t think he’s interested. I’m in a really cool facebook group about the James Web telescope. Maybe I’ll suggest that to him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We all need the validation! That FB group sounds cool but I’m tempted to tease of course. I have a wonderful uncle who would groove on that group. He used to do DIY telescopes in the basement, that’s an intricate craft.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. You’ve really captured the essence, and sometimes loneliness, of grief well here. I’m so sorry for your loss, Jeff. Hope you can take some comfort in whatever form you choose tonight.
    Thanks for allowing me to be part of your WordPress family/circle.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Twilight Zone — The Other Stuff – news master

  13. Reading this took me back to my reaction to my husband’s death. I remember sitting down at my kitchen table after his body was removed from the bedroom and contemplating who to call next. It was the same when my son died. Somehow, when it is time to call others, your mind checks out and you run on autopilot.

    With me it was not so much with my stepmother. She was just a blip on my radar. I called no one. Not even my kids. They never knew her and I wished I hadn’t.

    Circles are meaningless if there is no friendship involved. I’ve been there and often they demand much and give back little. It’s better draw a tighter circle that can give back what you send out.

    https://meekamayesmarket.wordpress.com/

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    • Sigh, you’ve dealt with an unfair amount of death. I’m sorry about that. I sometimes don’t understand what people are telling me in their comments. Are you telling me to give up on my wordpress circle? It’s all I’ve got. The comments I’ve received over the past week have really helped stave off a likely bout of depression. I clearly need to build those tighter friendships, and I really want them but they’re elusive these days.

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