January 2008 was one of the darkest periods of my life. My children had just moved to Florida with their mother, and I was left with the enormity of cleaning out my old apartment to move into my mother’s house. On the fourth or fifth day after the boys were gone, I called my aunt, Carolyn, for moral support. She and I had always been close and had talked often over the years. We had much in common, including our quirky sense of humor, and we laughed often whenever we talked. At that moment, I needed to laugh desperately.
Aunt Carolyn had been battling breast cancer for several years, and around that time, she had taken a turn for the worse. Her health had declined precipitously that winter, and though neither of us acknowledged it directly, we both knew that would be the last time we would speak to each other. We talked for a couple of hours, mostly about the divorce and my kids, but also about life. As we talked, I moved around the apartment, cleaning and packing as much as I could with one free hand. Despite the fact that she was sick and dying, she comforted me and gave me strength. We told each other how much we meant, and I’m grateful that I had the chance to tell her directly. I’ll never forget that conversation and will cherish it for the rest of my life.
She passed away a month and a half later, on the day I had to take the boys back from their first return stay with me. Literally, I was carrying them down the stairs to the car when I got the call. I was already distraught over the trip and couldn’t handle more grief, so I stuffed it away and dealt with the turmoil of reliving the separation from my kids. To this day, I haven’t grieved for her properly. I’ve cried a few times, and I think about her often, but I haven’t really mourned for her. That causes me quite a bit of guilt, though I’m certain she would understand given the circumstances.
Aunt Carolyn was one of my biggest fans. She absolutely loved Brotherhood and as much as anyone encouraged me to keep writing. Her words stick with me whenever I’m working on the series. She was a good friend and a great aunt, and I’m lucky to have had her in my life. This entry doesn’t do justice to the impact she had on me, but it’s a start. Thank you, Aunt Carolyn. I miss you.