Tuesday, March 19, 2013
At my feet are two baskets. As I draw clothing from the laundry chute, where it has landed after being tossed down from the second floor, I alert my blue jeans they are being dropped into "colors" and Tommy's undershirts -- that I have taken as my own -- are learning they are joining "whites."
Four month's after my husband's death, I find myself talking out loud. Not only in the privacy of my house where there's no one around to declare me loony, but also on the street. Listen to this recent conversation: "Good girl! That was clever to keep the drugstore receipt so you could exchange the blue nail polish that was crap."
Fortunately, passersby assumed I had a Bluetooth stuck in my ear, and there was someone else on the other side of the wireless. Naw, it was just me, enjoying the sound of my voice.
There are several reasons I've become a chatterbox in my rookie widow state: First, because I work out of my home, and there is no longer a dog or husband to benefit from my cooing, instructions, or revelations, I could possibly go an entire day without speaking. I doubt that’s good for my vocal cords or mental health.
When Tommy was alive, I was a big talker. He suffered from Primary Progressive Aphasia, and over the course of three years, went from having trouble finding words to being unable to speak at all. We communicated through post-it notes he wrote for me, thumbs up -- his gesture for everything's okay, thumbs down -- for the opposite, or simulations of the parlor game Charade.
If I couldn't figure out what he was trying to tell me, I'd do my shtick: "Are you asking me a question? Are you telling me something? Does it have to do with a television show? A woman? A man?" and so on. Sometimes, our back-and-forth would take quite a bit of time. But, I refused to give up until I'd get the correct answer. And when I did, I'd give my spouse a happy kiss. Perhaps it should've been Tommy bussing me, but I always believed he deserved the reward because of his spirited efforts.
Even though my husband couldn't hold a conversation, that didn't stop me from talking to him. He could understand everything I said, and had no problem with memory, so I made sure to keep him in the loop of my daily trivialities.
"You'd never believe what happened today," I might say. And then, I'd relate some stupid story that was likely boring, but he was game to behave as if it was absorbing. If the tale made me a winner, Tommy would smile and give me a thumbs up. But, if it was my folly I was confessing, he’d shake his head and return to the T.V. Either reaction satisfied me.
After he died, there was no need to keep up the chatter since he wasn't around to hear it. So, I kept quiet. And eventually, the absence of voice overwhelmed the house. It sunk into the curtains, was absorbed in the carpet, leeched onto the walls.
That's when I started talking. Not only to myself, but to inanimate objects. "Good morning, Herman," I'll say to the stone hippo Tommy bought at a crafts show. It's a heavy and odd piece of art, but my husband liked it. It sits on a bathroom sill and gets a stroke on its smooth surface along with my words.
Not only objects de art are privy to my babble, but the early-mentioned laundry, a teapot, my iMac, various stuffed animals, bouquets of flowers, and I have been known to thank a jug of milk for not spoiling on its sell-date. There’s also the well-known questions you may share, but may not utter aloud: “Why did I walk into the kitchen? What did I intend to do here?”
Of course, I talk to Tommy often. I figure he's still interested in my minutia, so his framed photo on my bedside table gets an earful. "You'll never believe what I did today, honey," I’ll say. Behind the glass, he is permanently smiling. Two thumbs up, I imagine. Good enough for me.