In a recent phone call, my mum told me that when she first wakes in the morning, and is wondering if she has the desire to start her day, or the strength to get out of bed, she hears my brother’s voice in her head. And he says to her, “Come on old lady. Time to get the hell up, and out of that bed.” And so she does.
I think we all hear voices in our head, don’t you? The voices of special people in our lives, whose real voice we no longer hear.
|Dawn on the river yesterday.|
My brother passed away last fall after many years of struggle with his health. Despite his long and ultimately losing battle, he never seemed defeated to us, even when his body did not have the strength to fight any more. And he never seemed to lose his wry wit. When Mum and I visited him at the hospital, she’d brush his hair off his forehead, and chastise him for not having eaten all of his lunch. And he’d roll his eyes at me, and say something sarcastic about “the old lady.” He called Mum “the old lady” for as long as I can remember. Odd as it sounds, it was a term of endearment.
They had a very special relationship, my brother and my mum. Different from the one she has with me and my sisters. Partly because he was the oldest, her first born, and partly because he was “the boy.” Mothers and sons are very different from mothers and daughters, don’t you think? When she was alone with us four kids, struggling to make ends meet, despite his being very young, he was her rock. And in a weird kind of way, he still is. Even if his support is now a voice in her head.
I hear voices in my head too. My stepfather in particular. That deep, gravelly, kind voice, wondering what kind of trouble I’m in now. As a teenager, or a young twenty-something, I’d call home, sometimes in the middle of the night. “Where was I?” he’d ask. “What was it this time?” He was never impatient, never exasperated. I might be stranded with a flat tire on the way into town to attend university classes, or stuck with a broken gas gauge and an unexpectedly empty gas tank on the side of a dark highway. I drove very old cars back then, and I had very bad luck with them. But he’d always come and get me, wherever I was, no matter how late. Years afterward when I’d moved away, I’d call home from Ottawa, and he’d answer the phone with a half chuckle in his voice, “Snooze, what are you up to now?” I still hear him say that in my head.
Hubby says he still hears his mother’s voice. Calling him in for supper when he was a small boy, in the summertime, in particular, when he and his family were staying at his grandparents’ cottage on Lake Dore. “Stuuuu-art, where are you?” And because he was usually out in the row boat fishing, and not ready to come in, he’d hunker down and pretend not to hear. I remember his cousin laughing about that one day a few years ago. She says she too can still hear in her head the voice of Aunt Milly, Hubby’s mum, calling for him when he was out fishing.
I hear his mum too, in my head. She was widowed for many years, and I hear her telling me the story of one man who, persistent in his amorous attentions, told her he was “holding a candle” for her, after months and months of being rebuffed. Frustrated that he could not take a hint, she said “Well, for god’s sake put it out.” I love that story. Milly, at five feet nothing, with a piping voice, was a force to be reckoned with. She’s been gone for a long time now, but Hubby and I still miss her.
|A few minutes later, yesterday morning. The light changes so quickly.|
I guess I’m waxing a bit nostalgic this morning, folks. Thinking of family members who have had such a profound effect on my life, and hearing all their voices in my head.
That’s probably because I’m off to New Brunswick tomorrow, to spend time with my mum whose voice I am lucky enough to still be able to hear in real life.
I’m sure we’ll be doing lots of yakking when I’m there, cup of tea in hand. Ha. If it’s one thing we know how to do in my family it’s drink tea. And talk.
How about you my friends? Whose voice do you still hear in your head?