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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Comforting Words

I got my love of reading honestly – it was a gift from my mother. My mother and books are forever intertwined in my memories; I can’t remember a time when mama didn’t have a book with her. As mama aged, her love affair with books continued. Even when it was no longer easy for she and daddy to get to the bookstore or library, mama read. She had a large collection of books and never minded revisiting the friends that she had met among their pages.

I accompanied my parents on many trips to numerous doctors, especially over the last couple of years. As we sat in the many look-alike waiting rooms, mama would fill the time telling me (and anyone else who would listen) about the storylines of her favorite books. Her descriptions were detailed and enthusiastic. It was obvious how much her books – and the characters that inhabited them – meant to her. 

Up until a few months ago, my mother read several books a week. However, as so often happens with couples who have been together many years, after my father’s death my mother’s health began to decline – both mentally and physically. It was scary to learn that mama could no longer walk, but not unexpected; her mobility had been severely limited for many years. What little mobility mama had maintained for so long was mostly a sheer act of will and without daddy, she lost that will. It was unnerving to learn that mama had almost stopped eating; daddy did the same thing a couple of months before his death. However, the one change that truly struck terror into my heart was when I learned that mama had stopped reading. Mama not reading was almost the equivalent of her not breathing. At that point, I tried to steal myself for the loss of my mother only a few short months after my father. But, she held on.

Eventually, mama started eating again. (Apparently, I gave her The Look. Had I known that was all it would take, I would have done it sooner.) Once mama began eating a little better, she also bounced back somewhat mentally as well. During one of our phone calls, she was excited to tell me that she was reading again. I breathed a big sigh of relief and lost some of the sensation of impending doom. Shortly after that call, mama was admitted to the hospital and my husband and I made a trip to see her. It was then that I learned that mama’s “reading” consisted mostly of just re-reading the same couple of pages, but it was progress.

During her hospital stay, as I sat by her side, I watched mama pick up her book, “read” for a minute or two and put it back down. This process was repeated many times and I don’t know that she ever turned a page. It was as I watched her sleep, her book open on her chest, that I realized, that it wasn’t just a book – it was a friend. A friend whose presence brought my mama comfort. She finds peace in holding a book and looking at the words it contains, even if she can no longer focus on them or understand them as well as she once did. Mama has been through many changes in the last few months, changes over which she has had no control. She lost the love of her life and then had to leave what had been her home for the last six years. Yet, through all of the changes and loss, mama’s books - her friends - are still with her and their stories haven’t changed. 

Mama and her friend.
As a writer, it can be hard not to base what I think of as my level of “success” solely on the number of reviews that my books receive. The fact is, most readers will never leave a review. Out of the hundreds of books that mama has read, I doubt that she has even reviewed one. But, what is more important? The fact that she never left a review or the fact that even now, in the twilight of her life, she holds onto her books. (My sister says that mama takes at least one book with her everywhere, even if they are just going into another room.) Why does she cling to her paperback friends? Because the stories mattered to her. And, when it comes right down to it, isn’t that the best reward that I can have – the honor of writing the stories of my heart in the hopes that someday they might touch someone else?

What stories have touched your heart?

Until next month, happy reading!

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  1. I have known you and your family for over 40 years. What a loving tribute to the lady who was my teacher and came to be my friend. She helped instill a love of reading in me and several others, I'm sure. I love you!!! Lynda

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