First published at Microstory a Week (2011)
My mother sits across from me, a sliver of white slip visible beneath the hem of her wool skirt. She looks out the window of the single room that’s now her home, a question forming in her mind. It’s the same one she always asks.
My answer is the same each time, too. One she struggles to process, but eventually accepts. I can tell her the truth. She won’t remember what I say any longer than she remembers what she eats for lunch. But I don’t. Ignorance is less painful than truth.
I used to regret lying to my mother. Not anymore. The truth might do more damage, like when she shut down after my older sister, Susan, died. I tell mom the truth about Susan, though. A tumor the doctors found too late is more acceptable to a woman of mom’s upbringing than carbon monoxide poisoning, in Germany, in a car, with a married man, while serving in the army.
“Do you know how Kathryn died?” she asks.
I glance at the picture of my other sister, Kathryn, part of a family montage pinned to a corkboard hanging on the wall.
“No, Mom. They never told us what happened.”
I look her straight in the eye, sincere, remorseless, and thank God she’s the way she is.