It’s not that Jessie hasn’t seen her biological mother, Louise, over the decades. They’ve connected in fits and starts, and had a few phone calls during the pandemic. Whatever else was going on, Jessie wanted to know whether her mother was alive and well. She heard about Douglas’s scrape with the virus, and about the loss of her aunt Penelope.
Jessie cried about that, not because she’d been close to Penelope – they’d met once or twice. Her aunt’s death touched the chord of grief in her that recognized all the losses of her upbringing. An aunt she barely knew, a mother lost to addiction most of the time, the irregular rhythms of moving from one foster family to another, the inability to construct stable family traditions. All these losses wake up in Jessie’s heart when she learns something else about her mother’s life.
But even so, the upcoming meeting with Louise feels different, somehow. Jessie knows, from their irregular phone conversations, that her mother’s been sober for some time. She knows the relationship with Douglas is a healing miracle of sorts. She knows that the community of friends Douglas brought into her mother’s life is strong.
In spite of all these good signs, Jessie finds her inner spine steeling itself for the encounter. She would love to meet her mother open-heartedly, but she is too well-trained in the anticipation of disappointment or hurt to allow it, fully.
Stephen asks if she wants him to come with her. He is so sensitive to her needs when it comes to her mother, always nearby when the phone calls end, but not hovering. Not for the first time, Jessie wonders how on earth she lucked into finding this man.
“No,” she says in response to his question. “I think I want to see Louise on my own. But, well, would you drive me there? And wait around? I know it’s a lot to ask.”
His answer is a strong embrace.