The day my mother died I was at the doctor's office. December 30, 1996. The first and last time I can ever remember having the flu.
A doctor from the nursing home called to say my mother would not make it to the evening. Did I know how to reach my brother, he asked? I was not first on the call list. My brother was the first to be called in case of emergency and the doctor could not find him. Only a few more hours, he told me. I thanked him and hung up.
I was surprised to be on the list at all. My mother had disowned me after my marriage to a black man seven years earlier. She never answered my letters and if it was my voice on the other end of the phone, she hung up.
Once, she screamed into the phone "Don't ever call here again."
And now she would be gone for good in just a few hours.
I ached at the thought of my mother dying alone. But that is what happened.
Several years later my brother whispered to me that he thought I was the rightful owner of my mother's platinum wedding band. It was a thin band with diamonds around it. As a child, I thought it was beautiful. My mother told me once that she bought it herself because my father never got around to buying her a wedding ring when they eloped.
My brother told me that as the only daughter, it should be mine. I knew better. As the only daughter I had been nothing but a disappointment to my mother. She would not have wanted me to have it.
A few years ago I made the pilgrimage to the cemetery for the first time with my brothers. I put the requisite stone on the headstone as my brother instructed me. It was a Jewish cemetery and that is the custom, he told me.
I left that day feeling a numbness I couldn't explain. I felt no grief or sadness. I felt nothing. I had spent years mourning the loss of a mother years before she died.
And now I was the bearer of her wedding ring. The only ring she owned, the ring she paid for herself. The ring that had been removed only after death.
It was the realization that it would always remain in my top drawer that finally caused my tears to flow.