Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Letters

Villefranche-sur-Mer
France
24 March 1922

Dear Mother Combs,
(Half-way down page 2)
We have been very happy, too, both of us like to stay at home and play with the baby.
Honestly, without prejudice, I will say that Patricia Combs Aldrich is the sweetest and best baby I ever saw. We both love her almost too much. She is growing fast and is getting smarter every day.
...
Best of love to all,
Clarence

June 15, 2016

Dear Mom,
You sure have been on my mind a lot lately. John thinks Maizey has been waking up in the middle of the night because she sees a ghost. We always kidded that it was Mick Shrock up there. Jack and I are pretty sure there are spirits downstairs - usually wandering down the hall. I wish I knew if for sure if you and or Dad were hanging around. And if so, why? Is that what souls do?

Linda and I went up to Georgia in April to go through Aldrich family memorabilia. Perhaps if spirits are real, you went with us. We had such a good time. There was lots of laughing. Lots of story telling. Some crying and missing people who meant so much to us. Lots of speculating about relationships. Perhaps, for me, the best part of the whole trip was the box of letters I brought home. Reading them is like peeking through a window in time, getting a glimpse of the young Grammy and Grampy and Great Grammy and Great Grampy, when their futures were still dreamy. I feel sad that I wasn't able to know them as an adult. My kid's eye view was pretty narrow.

Linda is quite excited about getting all the Aldrich genealogy put into a computer. Lately I've been researching Aunt Letty's first marriage. I have the faintest memory of you wearing a royal blue dress. In a letter to his father, your Dad describes the wedding as quite an affair.

I haven't made too many quilts lately. My creative projects have slowed to a snail's pace. Mostly I make bears from the clothes of people who have died. I call them memory bears. Linda made each of the sisters one from Dad's well worn Haband shirts.  I made quilts for all of us from your shirts. I found the cutting wasn't so hard, but the sewing together was. Not the sewing per se, but the act of making something new from something old. I didn't want to let go of the old. I wanted you sitting on the stool watching TV than cutting up your clothes. That said, having the quilt to curl up under is very comforting.

That's the way the bears are. In making them, I've found that I can almost feel the person, I wonder if part of the soul resides in something so mundane as a shirt that's been washed and worn a million times. Recently a woman asked me to make 5 bears for her from her mother's clothes. It's only been a few months since her mother passed away. I could feel her raw emotions in her words. I always ask about the person because I want to tap into that spirit thing if it's there. I've actually done it. When this lady told me her mother was a quilter and she was going to learn to quilt so she could finish the projects her mom had started, I told her about how you would sneak up behind me in the dining room when I was sewing away on a quilt. Or how you'd stand over me when I was on the floor arranging squares. Aphasia took your voice, but not your eye for beauty or creativity. I'm not sure I ever told you how much I loved those times together. Remember the summer you taught me how to sew? What a gift you gave me without even realizing it. You probably didn't give it a second thought. That's what mother's did back then. Do you remember ironing on hot summer afternoons? It looked like a chore to me. I've found ironing can be very zen like. Maybe that's something else you knew that would take years for me to learn.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I knew how hospitals take care of a body after the person has died. With unexpected tears trickling down my cheeks, I admitted I didn't. I remember everything about the day you left us. Oh how I wish we'd known what was happening. I wish someone had told us so you could have died peacefully right here at home. I wish that we hadn't talked Dad into leaving the hospital. With good intentions we tried to spare him a long death vigil. I wish I'd known then how sacred this period of time can be. I wish I'd known then how touchingly beautiful the act of washing a person's body after death can be. I wish I'd known then to sit quietly with you, that your heart had stopped beating but your maybe your spirit continued to hover in the room. And, in answer to my friend's question, I wish I'd known then how a hospital cares for a body.  I am so sorry I left you. Yeh, I thought it was important to get home to dad. And probably I needed to runaway as fast as I could to the place I've always gone when I needed my mom most, under the covers. Oprah says "when you know better you do better." I knew better and did better when Daddy passed away.

Memories keep you close, still it's hard to be a girl without her mom.
Missing you,
Merry ME

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