Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mom's address book is a poignant tale

I found a sad and poignant reminder of the entirely of Mom's life the other day. I was helping her put together some clippings and a letter to her uncle when I opened her address book and something struck me as odd. Many of the names were crossed out with a single stroke, in many cases all the entries on entire pages were marked. Each stroke was deliberate and just the same. Mom began at the lower left corner of each entry and quickly drew a slash up and to the right over the city, over the middle of the address and the last part of the name. Reading the names, I realized they were friends or family that had passed away.

I asked if she had done it all at once or as people passed away. "All at once about three years ago. I update it when I learn that another one has died." I could picture her, looking for an address then realizing that there were more dead listed an alive. This list was of the people most important to her - aunts, uncles, distant cousins, friends from the years of church service, PTA, boy and girl scouts, politicians who helped with a tax battle, democrats and neighbors who moved away.

Her entries were always tidy and in ink. Early on each letter is clear; each digit carefully spaced for readiability. As she added new entries for grand kids, medicare, supplemental insurance, doctors and such, her writing became a little more slanted. Often the letters hovered above the straight lines or crowded another. For the most recent entries, I found an extra consonant in names or cities and states but the names were fine. The precision wasn't as important to her anymore as the recording of the information. Details are all there but her presentation is no longer tidy. It's like her hair, white, wiry and harder to control but still there making a white glow around her little head.