12:22:15 pm on
Tuesday 21 Sep 2021

Closing the Book
AJ Robinson

In the first Herbie the Lovebug movie, there’s a scene where an elderly Asian gentleman imparts a bit of wisdom. He does the old “A wise man once said…” routine and says that when you come to the end of a story, close the book.

As a writer, I understand that idea. Many a times I’ve written those two words: “The End” and had mixed feelings. Part elation and part regret.

Little words, yet they carry such huge meaning. The story is concluded, everything that can be said has been said and it truly is time to close the book and put it aside. Of course, these days, what with digital books, I guess we should say that you can close the file, minimize it on your screen, or maybe even delete it from your computer, iPad or whatever else you might use to hold the file.

The Wild and Crazy Life and Times of Silvana Rigacci Robinson Graham Kocher has a nice ring to it. Yes, do I know. A biography is supposed to be more sedate and dignified.

My mom (above) titled her autobiography A War Bride’s Remembrance.” She felt that said it all. Well, the day has finally come to write those “Two Words” in her story and “close the book.”

I spent a great deal of time preparing myself for this moment. I thought I would handle it better. I was wrong; so very, very wrong.

I suppose that’s to be expected when your mind, body and soul are torn asunder until they bleed into each other; you pray for death and yet are forced to pick up the pieces of your shattered being and try, somehow, to put them all back into some semblance of a human being. It’s guaranteed to be an agonizing event. Not an easy task, pulling yourself together.

It was decided my brother, Greg, would send a text to me, Danny and Dave when that day came. Although that might seem a tad impersonal, we knew it was for the best. It was a touch of mercy for Greg, as having to say those words repeatedly, to relive the moment, and then commensurate with each of us as our grief exploded, would have been torture.

Sadly, I had to hear of Greg passing from David back in April. Thus, it fell to David to inform the brothers of mom. My wife Jo Ann and I were in New York City on vacation when I awoke on the morning of the thirteenth to see those words on my phone.

At first, a curious calm settled across my mind and body. She was gone. Her pain was over. It was left to us the living to deal with the aftermath.

My grief, in fact, did finally erupt through my body. Every fiber of my being was shredded, and I instantly prayed for death, for an end to the agonies pummeling my heart and soul. Yet, I knew I had to go on living.

That’s what we the living must do, go on, somehow. Step one was to hide. I was like a scared little boy who’d taken cookies from the cookie jar and was now in fear of punishment from an angry parent.

I was five again and wanted to curl up under the sideboard in the entryway of our home in Arlington, MA. That was one of my comfort zones as a child. When I had a tummy ache that was where I went to feel better.

I really could have used such a place right then, but none was available. At least not one that could offer that level of solace. No, instead, I merely found a quiet spot where I could look outward into the universe and inward into my own mind and soul.

I sat at the small glass-top desk in our hotel room and gazed out the window into the clear blue early morning sky. Mom had crossed over. She finally knew the answer to the Big Question, the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Was the answer forty-two? I took a tiny smidge of comfort in the knowledge that she was at least at peace, which is all I wanted for her for some time. “Give her peace” I would pray each night.

If that was recovery and long life, wonderful. If it was release, an end to this plane of existence, so be it, if it was her wish. Now it was time for me to start the process of moving forward.

I emerged from hiding like a butterfly from its cocoon and as that delicate creature I had metamorphosized from the crying child to the adult man. I still grieved. I didn’t see that ending anytime soon, but I now had duties and responsibilities to carry out.

Step two was telling Jo Ann when she woke up. We grieved together briefly and then both realized we had things to do. She called her mother and I made plans to tell Alexa, our daughter.

Alexa was supposed to come into New York City to spend the day with us, but she had to cancel. I had to tell her right then and there over the phone. I could not say the actual words.

No, instead all I could choke out was, “Nona is with Uncle Steve and Greg.” Nona is Italian for grandmother. It’s what we called my mom.

Uncle Steve was my brother, Stephen, and therefore uncle to Alexa. Frequent readers of my column will know that he passed away a few years back and, thus, Alexa knew who I was talking about and what my statement meant. I will respect her privacy by not revealing the remainder of our conversation.

It is a hard to speak of the death of a loved one. It is nearly impossible for a little boy to say that his mommy is dead. Any man who has ever gone through that event knows most definitely that nothing turns back the years as quickly as the loss of the woman who birthed him.

Yet, this is but another chapter in the book that is the story of my life. How many more until someone else pens “The End” for me? Who can say? For now, I continue my voyage in this world and I shall relish every memory of the events I shared with her.

Farewell, Mommy and may yours be a journey filled with wonder!

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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