After six and a half hours, the surgeon emerged from the operating room to report. Laura Duarte was in critical condition: she had a perforated intestine; toxic fluid had seeped into her abdominal cavity; her entire system was poisoned. Chances of recovery were quite slim--"less than five percent," the woman told us.
She looked briefly at each of us, as if taking snapshot assessments of our mental state. "I need to be completely honest with you, all right?" We nodded. She addressed this next to me, as if she'd selected me as spokesperson. "Your mother is not likely to make it through the weekend."
Though we all cared deeply about each other, the Duartes had never been what you would call a close-knit family. We were there for each other when circumstances dictated. (After all, hadn't my sisters both showed up for my college graduation?) But we'd all gone our own ways early on and stayed in touch only vaguely.
Cindy had fallen naturally and readily into the role of black sheep, as if being "the rebellious one" were a foregone conclusion from childhood on. Jen, the baby of the family, ended up following in Cindy's footsteps. Of the three of us, Jen always stayed closest to Mom and Dad (as close to them as Cindy was distant), yet I always had the sense that her perpetual efforts at vying for their attention were never quite successful. At any rate, she was the only one who kept in regular contact, and when our parents picked up and moved to Las Vegas, Jen followed like a faithful planet orbiting a benevolent sun.
Then there was me: the one who went to college and "did things right," a role which I could never help feeling my sisters resented--although I had no real evidence that this was so. Now, in the past year, I had bolted far more radically from that path than Cindy or Jen could ever have done. They just didn't pursue college degrees; I had earned one and then tossed it away!
In all fairness, I hadn't discussed my career change with anyone in the family but Jen, and although she had been shocked and horrified at first, she seemed to be working her way past it--not the way Mandy had, but getting there. I didn't know what my parents thought about what I was doing. We hadn't spoken about it.
Really, we hadn't spoken about much.
And why was that? Somewhere, in the process of all this conversation I'd had with David, all this personal growth I'd gone through with my business, all this learning and changing, I hadn't gotten around to having any real dialogue with my own mom or dad.
As the weekend wore on, what shocked me about listening to the three of us talking was not how different we were, but how alike. I had always thought of the three Duarte sisters as such distinct individuals. But as we all proudly shared our kids' achievements, war stories about financial struggle and the trials and tribulations of our relationships, there was something underneath, despite the differences, that was so similar it was eerie. We all have the same story! I marveled.
Cindy had divorced early on, breezed through a series of boyfriends, and had been in a pretty serious relationship now for over six years. Jen had also married young and divorced young; she had raised her boys Mike and Zach on her own, although Mom and Dad had been a pretty constant fixture in their lives, and had only recently married husband number two. I had remained single by far the longest, then had married a man to whom (wonder of wonders!) I was still married, though we'd been through the desert for many of our sixteen years together.
But these were all minor differences, insignificant variations of character and setting. They were all the same story, really: the Duarte girls, struggling to hang onto stable relationships and beat back the financial demons while raising kids they loved. It all sounds so familiar, I thought. It all sounds a lot like the story of Raul Duarte and Laura Parker.
Cindy was saying something about her eldest daughter, Chloe, and her boyfriend, and how she hoped to God that Chloe wasn't making a big mistake...and I heard a voice in my ears.
It breaks my heart to see the same pattern over and over again, my children and their children, each new generation accepting so much less from life than they could.... Nanny's words, telling me things I still hadn't fully understood.
"Earth to Annie. Hello, you with us?" I jumped slightly; Cindy was glaring at me in mild reproach, and I rejoined Jen in our Greek-chorus commentary on Chloe's melodrama. I wasn't ready to discuss with my sisters all I'd been learning from my reading and in my business. This was neither the time nor place for that conversation.
Within the first few hours alone with Jen and Cindy, I also discovered an uncomfortable truth: being with both of them brought back very clear memories I'd long thought laid to rest, and with them, feelings I'd thought no longer had so strong an influence over me. For the first time in nearly a year, I felt twinges of a familiar, burning flush. I knew that feeling. It was anger. I'm angry.
In the days before my encounters with Nanny, Kiyosaki and Rose, that feeling had been my constant companion. I had lived with it so long and it had become so familiar, yet I hadn't even been able to put a name to it until my therapist had helped me do exactly that. Anger.
And now it was long gone...or so I'd thought. But here it was again, curling around my feet like a housecat I hadn't even realized we still owned. I did not like what I was feeling.
Nor could I really explain it. Angry about what? Of course you feel angry! Give yourself a break, Annie. Anyone would feel angry, facing the loss of a mother who was perfectly healthy just days ago. But I knew that wasn't it.
JULIE ABARZUA is a network marketer. The Journey is her first novel. Available now at www.networkingtimes.com/catalog