I was updating Mom’s new social worker a bit about her life the other day. He wanted to know the important details, and soon agreed the part about Mom and Dad first divorcing, then remarrying eight years later indeed fit the mark. He mentioned what I already knew – reunification after divorce is rare, especially when it lasts the remainder of the couple’s lifetime. As we talked, I harkened back to an old Oregonian feature article and a more recent Boston Globe Love Letters podcast featuring our parents’ story, produced not quite three years ago and a few years after Dad’s death.
Yes, research on memory demonstrates that music can return us to the past, sometimes momentarily restoring the capacity of those with dementia to recognize songs, make music and sing along. Interviews and stories about Glen Campbell and Tony Bennett – neither one of whom was a big vocal favorite of my parents –prove the point. Our Mom demonstrates it daily. (See Music is the one thing.)
Music. And letters. A few days ago I retrieved a bundle I had stashed in my bedroom after Mom had downsized from Tanner Spring to an adult care home. I must have known I would find a time to return to these love letters. That time being now. My memoir and blog followers may recall anecdotes about our prolific letter writing dad. I am trying to make more time for this often forgotten art. Oh for us to remember to put on paper our gratitude and love for the people in our lives!
As I seek concrete ways to remind Mom of the love that others have shown for her in the moments we spend together, I have begun to reread her love letters from Dad. Deeply personal, dear and trademarked by his personal style. She smiles and nods her head, occasionally reminding me that he is dead now. She agrees he was a handsome, kind and sometimes romantic guy. She always laughs when I remind her how frequently he said she was “quite a tomato.” I’m thankful Dad wrote the letters, Mom kept them, and I didn’t toss them in some de-cluttering frenzy. While they feel deeply intimate, I boldly share one here. For life and love is nothing if not personal. (And Dad, the journalist, would have been just fine to share his message to the world –I am certain.)
Did you miss the Boston Globe Love Letters 2018 podcast episode and want to know more about Patty and Dick’s story? Their story comes on just after 7 minutes.
As if on cue, Russ returned from cleaning out the garage last night with a box of old letters. He had no idea about this blog I was writing. (We have been waiting 30 years to clean out the garage.) Just a few hours earlier I had wondered whatever happened to those love letters I had written way back then? I have the ones addressed to me safely stashed in a couple shoe boxes in my closet. Maybe someday our own children will be reading these letters. Listening to my writing from years ago, although I may have attempted to emulate some of Dad’s humor, I certainly lacked his style – a daughter listening in noting how silly we were. Silly but meaningful, like all letters between people who love each other .