Dear Family and Friends,
My husband and I celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary today. The part of our marriage that is the most fulfilling to me is the intense amount of conversation we share. We talk about all kinds of things, and dozens of new topics of interest have emerged between us over the years.
I think I was born talking, running my words together and subjecting the world to a stream of consciousness that was only rarely if ever riveting. My own mom used to say, “I guess you have to talk fast in this family or you won’t get a word in edgewise.” (Maybe that’s why I love writing; it allows me to organize and share my thoughts in a more logical fashion … not that writing has slowed my talking at all.)
Though often quiet around others, my sweet husband and I can chatter away for hours. He may have learned to be more talkative than most men from his mother. And she and I would often have long conversations while we cooked a meal or shopped or just visited in the living room. Though we lived more than a thousand miles apart, we tried to make up for it during visits to see each other.
Mom used to share with me interesting tidbits about everything from the customers who visited the Kohl’s jewelry and fragrances counter where she worked part-time while in her 70s (something fun to do, she said), to her international travels with Dad to destinations including Yugoslavia and China. She would talk about the book she currently was reading, or the gossipy news she had learned while volunteering at the local police station. She would talk about fashion, recipes, parenting and her family.
Living so far away from Mom meant that my conversations with her got shorter in what seemed like dramatic chunks. One time you would visit and she would be able to follow along and interject now and again. The next time, she had to be prompted to answer a question. Then, for a while, she only repeated the things you would invite her to say. But she would nod her head and perhaps give you a slight smile.
And then: “Is the ice cream good, Mom?”
She has been quiet for months and months now. Once in a great while, she might say a word or two, but it’s been a very long time since she put a sentence together representing an original thought or even reflecting an immediate feeling or need.
“Do you like the sunshine today, Mom?”
She doesn’t look sad or happy. She just keeps her chin and eyes down. When she does look up for a moment, there is no emotion. No sign of recognition. Just blankness.
There is so much inside Mom that can no longer come out. I try to share with my daughters some of the things Mom said to me over the years,and how sly she could be. I’ve told them how diplomatically she asked me when I was going to start having children, and when I would finally change my last name to my husband’s.
I am grateful my husband is safeguarding the dozens of journals she kept throughout her adult years, until the Alzheimer’s took away her ability to write. Her life is memorialized in those journals, as well as in the hearts of her family. I like to take them out and read them from time to time. You know how it is when you read something from a person you knew well … you can almost hear them speaking the words.
My faith tells me that I will get to hear her speaking her stories again someday. I look forward to that.