She struggled to introduce me.

“This is…uh…my…friend…

My friend…has come…

My friend has come…to see me.”

I greet her with a hug and call her by the name that only I have ever called her, but she struggles to tell her neighbor at the lunch table who I am. I laugh and give them both my name and explain that I live out of state.

She has to be reminded to eat. She even forgets her ice cream! This is the woman who convinced all of us cousins that a local chain of ice cream stores was hers, simply because it had her initials.

Every morning she plays her medley of hymns on the piano in the day room of her assisted living home. Slowly, at first, she started losing her place. When she still had words to tell me, she said it was OK because everybody there was old and didn’t know what was supposed to come next anyway. “So I just keep playing and trying to make it sound good till I remember.” But I can remember when she pumped out “Lady of Spain” on the accordion and her feet played as well as her hands on the church organ.

She was a teenager when she played a pump organ for my parents’ wedding and not quite twenty when I was born. Twenty-eight years later she played for my wedding and a dozen years ago she played for my daughter’s. But our names are gone now along with all those memories.

I sit and chat for a while, keeping my sentences short, making sure I give her cues for her responses. If I tell her something funny, I laugh, so if she hasn’t understood me, she’ll still know how to respond. But I’m a change in her routine. I’m an element that doesn’t belong in her simplified world. She’s tiring of the effort to talk or listen or pretend. So I hug her and choke back my tears and pray I’ll get to see her again.

On the drive to my cousin’s, I realize she loved me before I knew her name. She laughed with me and talked to me when I had no clue what all those sounds meant. I will always love this woman who has outlived all her sisters, been grandmother to my cousin’s children and mine, and I will hold her whether she knows me or not.

The only words she knows now are the words in my heart.

* * * * * * * * *

Today’s guest blogger − and Connection Messenger − is Esther Miller, a Shenandoah Valley neighbor and fellow amateur radio operator (KK6AD). Esther has been a Virginia Master Gardener for over ten years. “I’ve been gardening since I was a kid,” she says, and her love of Nature is evident whenever you’re around her. She has traveled all over the United States and brings a wealth of experience and observance of Nature to her writing.

Born and raised in the midwest, Esther lived in California for over 30 years before moving to the Shenandoah Valley over 10 years ago with her husband, Larry.  ”I was an Occupational Therapist when I wasn’t being a fulltime homemaker and mother, working with children who had learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and autism.”  She has two children and two grandchildren and has been married almost 39 years.

Besides gardening, Esther is interested in genealogy and travel in the U.S.

Photo Credit: “Mother and Daughter” by Sandor Kacso via BigStockPhoto
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