Friday, July 2, 2010

The One Left Behind

My dad called me again yesterday in tears. He had just come home; walked in the door, and called out, “Dolly"? He knew no one would answer, but after 54 years of loving my mother, the rituals of familiarity still remain.

They met on a blind date...Dad enthralled by my mom's beauty and brains; Mom surely won over with Dad's kindness and shy worship of her. These may be just my impressions of how their dance began, but I know this: their love and companionship filled his life with joy and purpose. All the spaces she inhabited in his heart and home are now replaced by 24/7 loneliness.

Remember the melancholy song at the end of My Fair Lady?

I'm so used to hear her say
"Good morning" ev'ry day.
Her joys, her woes,
Her highs, her lows,
Are second nature to me now;
Like breathing out and breathing in.
I've grown accustomed to the trace
Of something in the air;
Accustomed to her face.

These days, Dad talks to a picture of my Mother he keeps on the kitchen table where she sat for their ritual morning discussions. He cries his way through my wedding video to see her sparkling and beautiful…and alive. The sound of her voice reading poetry is low and lyrical. He listens to the recorded funeral service where all of her children spoke in tribute about the Mother we knew.

He reads her journals, and I have to remind him that sometimes Mom wrote down feelings she didn't want to share outside the pages. Her journals began as records, then as railings. Sometimes bordering on sanctimonious about the shortcomings of those around her, she was sadly, most unforgiving of herself. In the months before she died, her writings had mellowed and are full of gratitude, forgiveness and love.

He is trying to find her, to hold on to what they were and to keep her with him until their reunion. He aches for her touch and wonders how long he will have to carry on alone. We all watch, helpless and hindered by broken hearts of our own.

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