This evening, we attended a Volunteer Appreciation banquet. It was good to see so many familiar faces and visit with people, again. My sensitivity to chemicals in the air limits my opportunities for being around people, and so I cherish even the briefest face-to-face conversations. I have noticed that I quit talking with people by telephone, quite a while back. It started in 2016 or late 2015, when my mother’s eyesight failed and rapid onset dementia set in—when she started to sound fearful, not recognizing my voice or understanding who I was when I identified myself. I would call, and she would repeatedly hang up the phone. Nor could I speak with my father, because she would not call him to the telephone.
Not understanding at the time what was going on, I felt crushed and rejected, and I quit reaching out to anyone. Having lost our spaniel to sepsis, Al and I spent a lot of time looking for a breeder from which to purchase another pair of puppies. And then commenced with the housebreaking in the dead of winter…at all times of the day and night. It was a good thing that we both were retired at that point, because the (lack of) routine and fatigue didn’t leave much room for day-to-day life. My breathing problems once again worsened, leaving me exhausted.
Mother’s condition worsened rapidly over the spring and summer, I was out of touch but held the medical power of attorney, and I had to make decisions for her via telephone, having her rushed to the hospital, diagnosed and moved into a nursing home under hospice care, and her dying with two month, not ever having regained any real awareness of time, place, and relationships. Not even with Dad. He died a little more than 100 days after her. Although in good health, he simply lay down for a nap, one evening, during a visit with my brother who had remained in the home town to live and raise a family, and didn’t wake up, again.
And so began the rapid loss of relatives, mentors, friends, and acquaintances over the next two years. Between the two of us, Al and I have one aunt still alive, and the first cousins have slowly begun to disappear.
I do not believe that I will go out among people, anymore. The environment is not safe for me as crowding continues and air quality declines. I am not comfortable talking on the telephone. I do miss the years of having friends with whom to exchange letters often enough to maintain a dialogue between us. There was time for thought, then. Time for deeper, more considered ruminations. Time to choose precisely the words to convey both facts and shades of meaning. Time to thing, to ponder.
Strangely, I have found a different sort of freedom in the “empty” times when Al is absorbed in other things. There are times when I seem to think in the abstract, so to speak. To wander through thought spontaneously, moving from one stream to another…viewing various currents, shallows and rapids, and watch different fish in the clear waters. And bubbles coming up from the mud of the river bottom.