What does a little boy who has lost his mother do?
He grows up.
He grows up wondering what kind of person he might have become had his mother survived beyond his elementary school years.
He grows up not remembering exactly what he called her—mom? mommy?
He grows up not remembering other details of his life prior to his mother’s sudden departure at age 41.
He grows up being told by a therapist that not remembering such details is symptomatic of being traumatized by primal loss at a tender age.
He grows up reliving in his mind’s eye the fateful moment, 60 years ago this month, that he was sitting in the living room after school with his eldest brother, when their previously perfectly healthy mother emerged from the family’s rec room—where she had been with a client of her hair-styling business—wearing a stricken yet soldierly look, to not alarm them, then writing in a barely legible, shaky scrawl on a scrap of paper, “I can’t speak.”
He grows up remembering his father coming home at the end of the day from his rounds as a traveling salesman to see an ambulance in front of the house.
He grows up remembering being sent with his middle brother (of three boys) to a neighbor’s house across the street to wait out the unknown future, of the next days, and the next decades.
He grows up remembering the clergy visiting his brother and him at the neighbor’s house. He doesn’t remember the exact words they were told, but he remembers not fully understanding the import of what he heard, and his brother crying upon hearing it.
He grows up remembering hearing later that the cause of his mother’s death was something called a massive cerebral hemorrhage, which ended her life within 24 hours.
He grows up remembering his father fetching him at the neighbor’s, and, as they were crossing the street, seeing for the first time his dad cry, when a neighbor driving by stopped to ask him, “How’s your wife?”
He grows up remembering with extreme discomfort the exact moment the life-altering loss seared his gentle soul: coming home from school, he knocks on the door, and blanches when it opens to reveal a strange woman. In that torturous moment, the up-ending of his universe hits him with merciless cruelty. His reason for being is gone—forever.
He grows up having to create out of whole cloth a new reason for being.
He grows up remembering a series of eccentric housekeepers, including the first one (at the door), whose passive-aggressive alcoholism, while slyly held in check at night, was visited on him during the day, through verbal abuse and false allegations of wrongdoing, until his father caught on to her shenanigans.
He grows up fondly remembering his kind and loving stepmother, who, despite her best efforts, never could win over the eldest brother--whose mournful, ominous wailing still rings in that little boy’s ears as the desperate cries of a sibling who never recovered from his devastation, succumbing to hard-core drug addiction.
He grows up to know further loss—a brother at 32, a son at 15.
He grows up able to place loss in perspective, knowing that, even as it saddens you, it can spur you to not let it defeat you or diminish you, but, rather, to lift you in tribute to legacies born of lives lost.
He grows up with an aversion to leaving social gatherings that supply the womb-like warmth of fellowship.
He grows up reflecting in later years how the disappearance of half his parents has shaped—or mis-shaped—his path in life, his results, his ego, his emotional complexion, his social skills, his persona, his person.
He grows up with a robust, quicksilver sense of humor, coming to believe it is a compensatory form of self-medication and a defense mechanism to distance himself from demons.
He grows up to be a writer and aspiring actor who finds peace and fulfillment in personal expression, perhaps to prove something, if not to others, then to himself.
He grows up feeling blessed with the gift of a spouse, a daughter, and an angel, who clearly are heaven-sent—by an eternal maternal spirit that lives inside him and watches over him.
He grows up to pay filial tribute to his mother on the 60th anniversary of her passing by writing in his column about a little boy, who used to be him.
Bruce “The Blog” Apar is a writer, publicist, actor, and civic volunteer. He is sole proprietor of regional marketing agency APAR PR. He is the ghostwriter for new ForbesBooks title, “Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer,” by Bob Fisch, now available at Amazon, WalMart, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other online bookstores. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at email@example.com or 914-275-6887.