Say it again

She was once brilliant (quantum-physics-as-a-hobby brilliant) and startlingly witty, with no time for nonsense. But now she has Alzheimer’s, and all she has is time and nonsense. Now she says things like, “I can use that for a sunapat. Sunapat with a T. I don’t know, I’m falling out of a tree.” Her nonsense often has a desperate, frustrated air, as if she knows people don’t understand her and she needs to try even harder to get her message across.

But I did hear her, when she could speak. I did hear her, when I did not even realize I was listening.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

Photo via MaxPixel (public domain)

1 thought on “Say it again”

  1. Simcha,
    This is incredibly beautiful.
    Thank you. It made me cry.
    I have five out of the house now. Sometimes I feel crushed when it doesn’t seem like my kids are listening, or worse, that I have to back off and say nothing because the lines of communication seem to be down. When that first began to happen with the teenagers, I felt like I had failed somehow. My husband would give me pep talks and tell me “they love you so much, don’t be so hard on yourself.” The glass-half-full voice would whisper that his words were mostly just kindness, like band aids on the wound. But now, as I look back I realize how insightful my husband is. They have all come to me in their darkest moments. I’m often the first one they call when they are elated with good news. They call me on the phone, wondering what we did on our weekend, or to tell me what they did. EVEN the 18 and 21 y.o.!!!!! They end their calls with “I love you” and “I miss you”. They send me funny texts and links to things that made them laugh. They include me in some somewhat off color group texts even though they know they are risking a scolding. they tell me when they think they are going to ask a girl to be their girlfriend, or when someone has bruised their heart. They ask me for love advice!!!!!!
    They all celebrated when I bought myself a huge canvas and started to paint again.
    But it’s not like I’ve reached the promised land. They’re also sometimes exasperatingly nosy, chatty, contentious, opinionated and they try to give ME advice like they’re 40 and have lived life.
    Sometimes I have to walk away from them,switching the line of communication to “off” mode until they cool their engines…
    (they also have been known to drink my premium tequila if I don’t hide it. My husband doesn’t agree with me about hiding it. I’m not sure who is right. Probably him.)

    The other night one of them called my husband at midnight from the SF airport, asking him if he could get a ride to our place because he’d missed a connecting flight. I groggily said “split the Uber with him!” But my husband knows what he’s doing. He wants them to know that he is always there for them. He didn’t complain while he got dressed. He also ended up getting a ticket on the way there and killing a raccoon on the way back. That dead raccoon was still there in the middle of 19th street when I returned from bringing him back to the airport in the morning. I don’t know if he fully appreciated our efforts, but I know that he will remember little things like that when he has a 20 something-year-old asking him for a favor.

    Being a parent has taught me more about God than anything else. My kids laugh at me when I say that because they misunderstand and think I’m putting myself on par with God, but I know someday when they are parents, they’ll get it.

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