My mother died when I was in high school. She had been in a hospital many times in those last years. In recent years, I have been unable to recall her voice as I once did.
To Hear Her Voice Again
I was fourteen when first I heard her voice less regularly.
She was away more months at a time, and
Her voice then was brittle and softly sad.
Her voice frightened me too often, and
I could not respond, didn’t know how to answer.
Once, when she was home, I went into hiding,
afraid to hear her words of anguish.
As a boy and as a man, I struggled with ‘sad,’
I hurt with ‘hurt,’
At sixteen, we were in separate worlds–
But aren’t all mothers and teenagers?
But her world had locks that I barely understood,
and my world had the locks of teenage angst,
and like my pals, I picked the locks to my world.
I escaped more often than not.
In December at sixteen, there were moments free,
moments when I heard carols in her voice,
giggles in her ironic instances, in silly instances.
But deep-freeze days followed, as they always followed.
Still I carried the sweet voice in my head.
Most often I could muffle the still soft sad voice.
The next year she left me behind.
In the parlor, I hugged sweet friends, old and new, aunts and uncles, soldiers who loved my folks.
We could still laugh there. Friends even then made me laugh.
We laughed despite it all.
And I could then pull back her voice clearly.
I could hear her–most often from better days.
I could bring back old reprimands and instructions.
I often resurrected her songs.
I pulled in her joking moments.
Usually I let the fragile moments drift by.
I relished the moments when she softly spoke just to me.
When I married, I was twenty-six.
I thought of her that day too.
I wanted to share those days, to make her proud in some way.
In my head, I could still hear her voice.
She was distinct. I knew her as a Mom.
I knew her singing still.
I was comforted by her in my mind.
My ears still picked out her voice.
At thirty, I yearned to share baby stories, to get her encouragement for me, a Dad,
and I imagined my first boy on her lap, in her arms.
Still her voice was accessible.
I could share her songs, and hear her laugh.
The brittle voice was gone now.
She shared my stories across time.
At thirty-five, I held up a new baby for her to see and coo to.
Her voice, though soft, I heard.
She saw me in my youngest, and we both laughed.
Now, these days, I no longer find her voice.
I can find some words of hers,
But the melody of her voice, and
The lilt of happy times are gone.
I miss her now at fifty-plus.
I get mad at me that I cannot hear her.
Is it me?
Has my memory so failed me?
Is it my ears that are too old now?
Have I just filled my mind with too much stuff?
Someday, I yearn to hear her voice again.
Will it be in my twilight times?
Even later, will it come?
I yearn to hear her voice again.
(c) Tom Bolton, June 29, 2012, Milwaukee