Monday, May 21, 2007
Nancy Reagan told Diane Sawyer in a recent interview, "If anything, I miss him more now than ever." She was speaking of her husband Ron, of course, the former President who died in 2004 at age 93. They'd been married since 1952-- 55 years.
I immediately think of my mother sitting alone in her assisted living residence. She moved there less than a year after my father died. It was apparent she couldn't stay alone in the big house she and my father built, so my brother and I made the arrangements. Now she is alone in a small room.
She has staff to help her dress, and remind her to take her pills, but she's alone-- except for our visits and calls. Her cat, and the TV. And her dinner companion, Ruth.
Nancy Reagan tells Diane Sawyer. "We were always together."
So were my parents, Bob and Gini. A neighbor once said about a pair of mallards that paddled side by side around a neighborhood pond, "They remind me of Bob and Gini."
My brother and I discussed having a pair of ducks etched into the granite headstone they will share someday. Along with the ducks, the words "Always together," we think.
My mother has never been one to analyze her feelings. She'd shrink from an interview. Poking a microphone under her chin would elicit a self-conscious laugh, and perhaps a shrug, before she would manage to say quietly, "I miss him. I've been thinking about him a lot lately." The camera would catch her discomfort at "being the center of attention."
Her feelings for her husband, though, would they not be equally as strong as the indomitable Nancy's? Of course they would. They are. But this lonely sorrow she keeps to herself.
When friends and colleagues ask me, "How's your mother doing?" I always say, "She's fine, the same, very content."
I believed this. She told me this. But now I see it can't be true, really. Inside she aches with loneliness she hides. I've let her hide it. She wants to hide it. All my life, if I tried to dig deeper, she closed gently, but firmly like a morning glory after noon.
But now I know, and it hurts. Why did I not know see her sorrow? She didn't want me to.