As the sun settles down for the night marking the close of the first day of spring my aunt draws and exhales in a whisper, her last breath. I like to imagine the strong arms of a loving Spirit pulling my auntie Gayle’s tiny body into a protective embrace; holding her gently as they ascend together into the heavens. I feel the physical and emotional pain releasing from her body, not slowly but in great gusts. I watch her skeletal body transform; radiate with health. Then the Spirit slowly opens their arms and with more energy than Auntie has ever possessed, she takes off running. She leaps through the vast fields before her. Her bare feet touch down on soft grass, the fresh scent of wildflowers fills her senses, no tears, no pain, just pure joy and unexplained peace. Auntie once again at one with the outdoors she so reveres and loves. This is what I imagine.
Friday morning, I stand with one foot still resting on my shovel. I wipe the sweat off my forehead with the back of my dusty glove. Surveying my progress thus far, I feel satisfied. There’s so much to be done I become easily overwhelmed. In these moments I remind myself I won’t and can’t get all the yard work done in one day. In fact, I may not get it where I want it to be this summer. It may take a few seasons, but I will get there and I’m learning to enjoy the process.
My mind wanders to memories of my auntie Gayle working happily in her flower beds and gardens. She loves this time of year, Spring, it’s her absolute favorite. Or rather it was. Fifteen years ago, my uncle left, and Auntie has never been the same. Unable to overcome his betrayal, she could find no reason to go on. She deteriorated in both health and spirit.
In the beginning I tried to rally her. I encouraged her via phone calls and cards and letters, but my immaturity and my limited experience in the cruelties of life left me impatient and not nearly compassionate enough. I never really tried to get to know her again. Selfishly I wanted to protect the memories I had of her from before and so eventually I drifted away.
Time may be a great healer, but it is also the great slayer of life, and no one escapes. These are my thoughts as I drop my shovel to answer my ringing phone.
“Your Aunt is dead.” I take in my father’s words.
I drop to my knees; my cell phone jammed against my ear. Tears flood my eyes and all I can do is repeat, “No, no.”
“Lorinda, your mother needs you.” My father’s calm voice on the other end shakes me to my senses.
My mother needs me.
My mother, father, a woman from hospice, a woman from DSHS and me all crowd into my aunt’s tiny apartment bedroom. I know as I look down at her withered shell, too small and nearly lost in the considerable bed of blankets, that she is long gone. Her body has given up fighting and ultimately, it’s ovarian cancer that claims her. I give her a light kiss on her hollow cheek and then leave the room.
Once everyone has bid their final farewell, we make our way outside. Mom holds my hand; her grip is almost painful. The cold wind whips against us. I’m struck with the unceremonious way in which two men carry Auntie’s body, zipped into a body bag, down two flights of stairs and roll it into the back of a minivan. She’s so slight, so small, she could as easily pass for a bag of rubbish. This thought makes me feel sick.
Here we were again, Mom and me. I remember just five years earlier, her head pressed into my shoulder, she cried helplessly as her mother’s ashes were lowered into the ground. And now her sister is gone too.
As the oldest child I’ve always felt close to Mom. I also feel an immense sense of responsibility to be here for her. I strive to be the kind of daughter to her that she was to my grandmother. And though I fall short, I continue to try.
Once the van carrying Auntie’s body pulls away, there is no longer a reason to stay. I drive Mom home to her house; it weighs heavy on my heart the distance that has grown between us. Since coming out to her as gay and then marrying my wife, Sandy, our relationship has changed. Sure, we talk nearly every day at the gym when she comes in to work out, but our conversation is surface. We’re pleasant and every once in a while, I receive what feels a very heart felt ‘I love you’ followed by a hug. But I long for more. I desperately miss our old relationship. I miss hanging out, I miss my mom.
I know my timing may not be ideal. I even realize that I’m acting out of selfish fear. But what I do, I do because I love my mom. I love her so much that the thought of living without her in my life makes me literally gasp for air.
Once I’ve pulled into her driveway and parked, I get out and walk her up the stairs. But as she reaches for the door handle, I grab her hand.
“That could have been you in that body bag today.” My throat tightens, and I can’t stop the tears.
“What would it matter then, Mom, if I’m gay or straight?” Mom’s face is white, whiter than I’ve ever seen it, but I continue.
“I want to see you. I want things to be the way they were, I’m still me.”
Mom is crying now too. But she shakes her head defiantly.
“You have changed, Lorinda. You may not see it, but you have. And I’ll never accept you being gay.” Her words hit as hard as they did the first time, but I press on.
“Then don’t, but don’t shut me out either.” I’m pleading, desperate.
“We are going to die, too, someday. Why waste what time we have left because we don’t agree on this? I love you. I want to spend time with you. I miss you.”
By now Mom is sobbing. She pulls me into a hug.
“Oh, Lorinda. I do love you; I do! We will start again. From here on out, we will start again.”
A week after the funeral, six months after I’ve married Sandy and four months after we’ve moved into our new house my mother pulls into my driveway for the first time. I answer the door and Mom holds a pot of sunshine daffodils and purple hibiscus. A smile spreads across her face.
“Beautiful house, Lorinda.”
From the very first pages, Lorinda Boyer’s pile of confessions moved me. Lorinda is a master with a pen. She incomparably describes what it feels like to be a Christian woman who must comply with fulfilling the role of being a perfect, dutiful wife and mother at any cost. No saints exist in the pages of this exceptionally written memoir, yet what stands out is the way Lorinda writes about how much her beliefs, confusion, and other people’s actions or lack of them affected her behavior. Overall, Straight Enough by Lorinda Boyer is a triumph of embracing one’s identity, redefining love, expressing one true self, and freeing oneself from feeling unworthy of love. It portrays a flawed, loving woman who repetitively struggles with excruciating guilt and thoughts that say she deserves to be punished by God.Amanda from Reader’s Favorite