WHEN I ENTERED THE ENVELOPE, I was first impressed with the darkness. The room wasn’t dark – just darkened. Mid-day, no lights were on; drapes partially drawn. The outside’s overcast filtered whatever ambient light to the point that I would have turned something on somewhere in the house.
Next, it was the music.
I’m not sure if what I believe is fact of folly. But I’ve been told that sitting next to a waterfall soothes. Angst is dissolved by ionization that occurs when water tumbles over rocks and into a pool releasing electrons from their magnetic orbit and freeing them to course about. These negatively charged electrons do something positive to the body. So, in the vicinity of the waterfall, we are both energized and relaxed.
I attribute this energy and relaxation, in part, to the very sound of falling water. The rush. Its gentle cacophony. Its music.
MOM IS PRESSING 90. Dad, her constant foil, died sixteen years ago. Macular degeneration has effectively stolen her sight. Reading is laborious; television, a chore. Cooking is a problem; cleaning, unsure. A 22-year-old nephew now lives with her doing exactly what 22-year-olds should do. Coming, going, eating, sleeping, coming, going. Living.
Loathe to admit it, essentially, Mom lives alone.
IT TOOK A FEW MOMENTS for my eyes to adjust. I’d driven nearly two hours to Mom’s in the muted daylight. But the inside of the house was dark. Well, darkened.
Inside, music played. Choral music. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed on her Bose Wave radio, singing religious and patriotic songs, and show tunes. And standards. They were in the room with her. It’s just that you couldn’t see them in the darkness.
She told me it was the greatest music ever and I located her in the rocker she’d bought for herself as a wedding present back in 1948.
I settled into dad’s old leather chair.
WHEN A CHOIR SINGS – even a good one – it is not the case that you can make out every word that is sung. Like falling water, each syllable is a tiny droplet whispering as it slips into the pool at the base of the falls. The collective effect is a rush. A gentle cacophony. Music.
MOM TURNED ON A TINY MAG-LITE flashlight that she kept at hand. She fumbled with the Bose remote, and then switched the light off. A few minutes later, she rose, went somewhere behind me, switched on another Mag-Lite, did something, switched it off and returned to the rocker. She alternated manipulating the remote and running little inside-the-house errands. Always returning empty-handed to the rocker where she settled for longer and longer moments.
We’d visit a little and then she’d say, “Listen to this one…” And she’d share a tiny bit of history recalled by the song.
IT WAS AS IF she’d been slipped into an envelope: one that was about to be sealed. All that was inside was her life. And the music.
Church of the Open Road Press