Silence nothing but silence greets me each afternoon as I open the door and enter my home. For a decade or a bit longer than that my mother’s sweet smile was the first thing I saw when I came in depositing my book bag and purse and computer. “You’re home early” or “Hello there” or “Did you have a good day” were the things I heard upon entrance. Accompanied by loud TV shows usually movies that she had been watching in the afternoon. If I heard silence and saw nobody in the chair I always had a frisson of anxiety until I had located her in the house. Though I usually called her from the car on my way home to see if she needed anything or if she was doing alright.
Now it is quiet until the cat wakes up to greet me. Then her raucous rings out. But it is usually silent for most of the evening and in the morning when I wake. It is an odd thing to get used too. I didn’t talk all that much when my mother was alive. Its not like we were chatty Kathy. We could go hours without a word. But the television was a constant. Afternoon movies, somtimes a full lenght feature animated film, Mash, Young Sheldon, Mom and other comedies. I think I will always associate the theme song from Mash with my mother. I never watched Mash with her or any of the other sitcoms that she liked but I could hear them as I prepared dinner or washed the dishes. She would watch them over and over and I could tell within a few minutes whether she had recently seen that episode. It didn’t seem to matter. I don’t know if she didn’t really remember them well as she usually knitted or looked at catalouges at the same time or whether they were like old friends to her and gave her comfort.
I think that as people grow old and approach the last years of their life they like to listen to shows that they loved when they were younger. I was uneasy with Mash for this reason. It felt like she was trapped in time. Now I know she just loved Trapper and Hawkeye and Colonel Potter and Radar. Its like a relative who tells the same story over and over and you smile indulgently and let them. These men from her 30s and 40s made her laugh and maybe it brought back memories of fixing dinner which she probably didn’t want to do and then sitting and having a bit of fun before putting us to bed. She couldn’t really cook anymore because her back was bowed and it hurt to stand too long. So maybe Mash was a memory of being able, able bodied, able to do things even when one was tired.
In the evenings we watched detective dramas. NCIS in all its cities and forms was a favorite and when we tired of trauma we would take a break and watch a Hallmark movie. We would chat about the actors..where else had we seen them. My mother would reach for her phone and look them up. My friends and I dubbed her the researcher. If there was a query she would solve it.
Sound was the rythm of our life..TV, the cats cries for dinner, small talk, caring words. All gone as the silence fills me and surrounds me like a cacoon from my former life.