Let's say that, instead, she'd been a magician. Let's say she'd told you about how her father had caught her with another magician, performing a spell in the back shed. And he'd told her that he was ashamed of her, that she must never do such a thing again or he would disown her. Suppose she had relayed this story to you on one of those long summer afternoons, digging with both her hands into the dirt, planting seeds.
Let's say this conversation between the two of you, amongst mid-day's honest bird calls (before twilight's wailing mourning doves) had taken place years after the tearful drive where she'd confessed to you that she performed magic, and you'd quietly told her that you already knew. Kicking your Vietnam-era surplus Army boots up on the dashboard, you'd told her, "And your daughter wears Army boots." A story she'd loved to recount over and over to those who truly knew her.
Suppose, years later, she'd asked her elderly father to move into her house, without telling him what she'd told you. Suppose that, in the two years he'd lived with her, she'd left the magician's circle where she'd found support for years. Suppose she'd gone back to living like a fearful teenager, asking her magic partner not to come over, and this regression had eventually caused the two of them to break off their ties altogether.
Now jump forward a few years, after her father's death. Let's say she'd met a friend who'd seemed, at first, just another lonely mundane, but that she'd suspected otherwise -- that she'd wished and hoped she'd found another magician like her. Let's say you'd urged her to ask her friend to perform magic together, telling her that, if that friend was not a magician, but truly a friend, they could remain friends even if they did not share a mutual interest in magic. Let's say it had been your words, your urging, that had gotten them together, partner magicians for the rest of her days.
Now comes the tricky part. Suppose her magician friend hadn't wanted to be known publicly as a magic user. Suppose this friend's childhood had left scars, for reasons never revealed to you. Suppose that, out of love and respect for her partner, she had agreed to keep their magic secret. And that, because of this vow, she'd expected you to keep the secret, too.
But go deeper, still. Let's say the pattern of pretending had eaten into their everyday life like a drop of bleach on a T-shirt. You might wash that shirt a hundred times, but the bleach keeps eating and eating, until the fabric suffers an irreparable hole. Lying about one's essential nature makes seemingly smaller lies easier. Lies that accumulate, that devastate, until the five cats she'd admitted to owning ballooned into 15 -- or 30 -- and the house your family stopped visiting when it had merely become inconveniently fur-covered became a health hazard that made you weep when you finally walked inside, days after her sudden death from pneumonia.
Then you might remember visiting your grandparents in their tiny house in coal country, and how your mother had despaired at your grandmother's forgetfulness and about the drooling cat your grandmother allowed to sleep on the kitchen table. She would always make an excuse before dinner time, sweeping you and your siblings into the car, clutching bread bags full of root-beer barrels and store-bought cookies from your grandfather. You would all eat at a little drive-in, your mother deep in thought. On the twilit drive home, she would beg you to intervene if she ever seemed to be losing her train of thought, to stop her before she, too, was wearing a droopy house dress, braless. You'd promised her -- you had always promised her -- that you would.
The shed, the father, the promise, the boots, the cats, the secret. No matter how you spin it, no matter how fiercely your brain wants to take the blame, you must eventually come to a singular conclusion. Her path had arced out from that first primal moment of parental rejection, and though at times the curve had been imperceptible, those words had whipped back, over nearly 60 years, to cut the feet out from beneath her and everyone she loved.
(But like the good fairy, following the wicked fairy godmother, let's mitigate this tale with the knowledge that, over her many years, she'd heard the whistling of her elliptical path and called it music. And she'd taught you to hear it, too. There is, at least, that much healing truth.)