The shrill ring of the telephone came at 4:30 a.m., a few days after Christmas.
“There’s something wrong with Dad,” my younger sister said. “Meet us at the emergency room.”
I’ll never forget my mother’s stricken face as the doctor broke the news: my father had “expired” from a heart attack. He was 66 years old. My God, I thought. What are we going to do? What’s my mother going to do?
At 58, my mother wasn’t at all prepared to be a widow. My father had always been incredibly healthy, and they’d just begun to talk about retiring and traveling together.
As for us kids, I was 30, my sister Dianne was 27, and my brother Chris was 25. Only months before, Dianne had gotten married to her husband, Bill, and Chris had just moved into his own place. I’d been on my own for a few years, but lived nearby and visited my parents often. We were all making our way in the world, but we knew Mom and Dad would be there to bail us out if needed. In an instant, that all changed. Looking at my mother’s face, I knew one thing for certain: childhood was over. We kids were adults now, and we were going to have to look after my mother.
Taking seriously my new role as a dutiful, grown-up daughter, I stayed with my mother in her empty house. She couldn’t bear the thought of spending those first nights alone. I expected her to behave like a wounded bird for a while, but each morning, after drying my own tears, I’d make my way to the kitchen only to find…