One family secret

Berthe

My mother-in-law kept loneliness close to her.

Born in New York City in 1924, it was only after her death three decades ago, at that age between what we consider middle and old – the one which has no name – this fact came to light for our family:

She was not an only child.

As we were told. As we believed.

A road trip to a New Jersey family grave site, and our pouring through its hand written archives revealed this: her mother gave birth to Celine in 1922. The girl died two years later.

I drifted away from those musty volumes with my thoughts spinning, with an ache in my heart. This one fact – one turn of fate – illuminated the life of this woman, Berthe. It offered a dimension to this woman who had a far-reaching impact upon, not only my marriage, but my self during our time together.

She loved to see me with my sisters. She loved tradition, our family, and was devoted to her husband. Yet, she carried this lost sisterhood despite these loves and devotions. She carried this loss alone.

My dear mother-in-law,

I wish I had known of your deprivation. We could have shared words and stories, I could have held your hand in mine and you could have sighed, perhaps even cried a bit.

Now, all I can do is this for you: create small art, and carry the quiet ache, from time to time.

T.H.

Yes. My mother-in-law kept loneliness close to her.


Berthe is sorely missed by her remaining family, every year since her death. This year she would have been 95.