On Friday night, as we watched Thursday night’s taped version of Jimmy Fallon, we slouched on the soft sofa, laughed and ignored unidentified calls. But at 8:30-ish, when our son’s name and number appeared on the top left of the screen, we paused Jimmy Fallon in the middle of his TikTok impression, clicked on speaker phone and said, “Hi, hon.”

Falmouth author Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She can be reached at [email protected] or at susanlebelyoung.com.

Zac said, “I’ll be making noise in my kitchen. I’m cooking for Thomas and Sam, who are coming for dinner on the deck.”

We heard water trickling in Zac’s sink, pots and pans clanging, Pippin barking when Zac spoke. Zac said, “I’m making a cheese platter right now.”

We had easy, breezy talk, Zac shuffling through his kitchen. I heard what might have been his fingers turning the pages of a cookbook. Then, in an instant, everything stopped. Zac’s hustle and bustle ceased, his chit-chat ended, kitchen noises now silent, and he swore, “Oh, shoot.” (He did not actually say shoot.)

I assumed he had burned a main course, sliced himself with the cheese knife, slammed the cutting board on his slippered feet or spilled his fresh-from-the-oven raspberry pie on the floor he had just mopped. He repeated, “Oh … Mom … shoot.” (again, not shoot). Zac’s voice and choice word grew in pressure like a steam valve discharging on the “sh” and ending with a hard staccato “t.”

I said, “What’s wrong? What happened?”

He stammered, “Ruth … Bader … Ginsburg … died.”

Our bodies froze. My husband and I stared at each other, then at the TV. We clicked out of silly Jimmy and into serious Anderson Cooper. We did not turn on the volume. Not yet. Zac’s tone deepened, “I honestly thought she’d hold on.”

Then he asked about the 2015 civil rights case that ensured the right for same sex couples to marry.

“Can a new Supreme Court overturn Obergefell v. Hodges? What about Roe v. Wade? My rights, your rights, are they history?”

I felt a screw in my stomach, a turning, churning, winding and unwinding. I had no words, no thoughts, just a gut punch.

Zac said, “I’d better go.”

I mumbled, “Me too.”

I don’t remember much more of that night. We flipped between TV channels, all commentators shaken and sad. I do remember seeing scenes of people gathering, pictures of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stories of her life, her legacy, how she spent her last weeks with family, or working, and enjoying opera. The ticker tape, running along the bottom of the screen, quoted RBG’s words, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

With that, my stomach stopped rumbling, stopped swishing, stopped anything really. In fear of her wish not being granted, it ached, stuck with knots and no way to untie them. My mind recalled that quote from John Lennon: “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” But my body couldn’t reach “will be” for either an end or an OK.

Saturday, I bought three children’s books about RBG. When I walked into my daughter’s house Monday with the books, 9-year-old Taylor grabbed one, sat on the sofa and started to read, calling out parts of it, “Is it true that men made more money than women for the same job? That makes no sense. There was no housing for women law students at Harvard Law School? How was that a good idea?”

And then, even knowing the fights for rights my grandchildren will have to fight all over again, because I heard good sense coming from a child, I felt hope.

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