Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Story: They Talked About Everything, Except What Mattered

He and his elderly mother talked about the weather, about the food in the retirement home, about remembering Dad--they talked about everything, except what mattered.

As she closed in on ninety, their morning phone calls went from discussions to something else. She started asking questions, just questions. After a few minutes of conversation she ran out of steam, and about all she could say would be “What else?” They ended up talking about every topic except the ones which mattered.

Her putting the electric kettle on the stove and turning the stove burner on, that was what mattered. Her forgetting when his wife was flying back and asking him three times in five minutes when she was returning, that was what mattered. Her telling him she had to pick up some pain killers and hemorrhoid cream because she had run out but no she still had some but it was not important and he did not have to worry about it she did not even know why she brought it up she had been up all night with irritable bowel syndrome and she woke up with a runny discharge from her nose every morning did he have a runny discharge in the morning so don’t worry about the pain killers she could do it herself she’ll take a cab, and he reminded her it was winter and too icy for her walker so he said he would pick it up, but she said it was not a problem she did not even know why she had brought it up she can just take a cab and get it with her walker and when he said they could deliver it she asked why he said that was he trying to make her feel guilty and besides she did not think they delivered pain killers but he should not worry and he should stop asking her how many painkillers she had left what did that have to do with anything she was not sure she had none no maybe she had a few left why was he getting so upset and what does he mean he has done this before he has never done this before.
And then he told her it was his mistake. They talked about his mistake, but not about what mattered.

At moments she cried, told him she was losing it and wondering what was becoming of her. She saw the end of her life every morning. She saw herself petering out as half-remembered thoughts in a retirement warehouse.

They talked about everything, except what mattered.

How could they talk about that?

Victor Schwartzman

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sigh, just read about your Mom. This aging parent(s) time in our lives is not fair not wanted. I ~ feel so bad I can hardly breathe.