Pearl Buck said that every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied. I suppose if I follow through with my plans there will be times when I wonder whether there was a split second, a halfway moment, when I could have averted the events that may proceed from my decision.
What was the moment? It might have been that phone call from Aunt Gladys. I admit I avoid talking to her because each time I do I feel a little older. Last night she told me she’d had Thanksgiving dinner with Joyce.
“Jessie has Parkinson’s. He’s eighty-one. I guess he’s doing as well as can be expected.”
I remember Joyce’s husband as the handsome young father of my cousin Cindy.
“Paula was there with her husband.”
Paula was Joyce’s daughter – born after Cindy committed suicide or was murdered by her husband. I always leaned toward the murder scenario. I’d met Paul once when Cindy and I were freshman at Radford and he was a killer if I’d ever met one. But Cindy had been dead for almost thirty years and now the sister she’d never met – the one that looked just like her – was a grown woman with a husband that apparently lacked murderous intent.
“Buddy was there. He looked terrible. He has diabetes you know. This has been a bad year for him. A heart attack and a stroke. He’s lost toes on both feet so he doesn’t walk so good. And he’s hard to understand because of the stroke. He looks as bad as Jessie”
Buddy was Cindy’s baby brother. How did he turn into a debilitated old man? I didn’t say any of this to Aunt Gladys. I just mewed appropriately sad responses and hoped that soon the conversation would shift to something more cheerful. Of course it didn’t.
“I’ll be eighty-two on December eighteenth. How old are you now?”
I didn’t say almost sixty.