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Shirley Palmerton: Oh, how I wish you’d talk to me

I’m holding the screen door open, and you pass through with your walker. I’ve already placed the folded-over cushion in the old rocker and hold it steady as you back up and sit down.

The plate of cheese and crackers and your cinnamon whiskey and water sit waiting for you on the little table next to your chair. My goblet of wine is there as well.

We sit on the deck under an old maple tree whose leaves keep the sun from peeping through. We have always enjoyed looking out over our lawn to the large hay field, and the woods.

I know the next words you are going to say before you speak, “Look at the clouds. Look at the wind blow the trees in the woods,” and nothing more.

More times than I can remember – more times than I can bear – I have asked you to “talk to me.” You answer, “I don’t know what to say,” as you look away.

We have shared so many moments and memories in our life.

You got up with me every night when the babies needed to be fed. We’d trade off warming their bottles and changing their diapers, as we talked about what happened that day.

The only time it was different was when our daughter was born. She weighed only 4½ pounds and wanted to eat every two hours. It was exhausting, and we quickly agreed to take turns.

I was so tired one night that when I heard her, I poked you and said, “It’s your turn.”

You turned to me and said, “Oh no, I just got back in bed.” We laid there laughing. I’m sorry you don’t remember that.

You held me tight when the doctor told us that our second son had a brain tumor and wouldn’t live. He was as tall as you when he died at 17.

You worked hard so that we could pay for our children’s college and weddings. When we finally had some money for ourselves, we bought a motor home and began traveling. Our daughter was in the Air Force. We went to see her and her family wherever she was stationed.

We were so excited to be in Plains, Ga., to attend the Easter morning sunrise service at Jimmy Carter’s church. The former president asked us to have breakfast with him and his family. That doesn’t happen to many, but it happened to us.

Then there was our trip to Alaska. I always thought you were so remarkable, driving there and back. I wish you’d remember, and we could talk about it.

You recently fell and injured both ankles, forcing you to spend time in rehab. Once, when I was walking to your room, I saw a man sitting with his wife. She was in a tilt-back chair with her eyes closed. He sat there holding her hand, and I could just feel he wished she’d talk to him.

I know I’m not alone. There are thousands of men and women wishing the same thing.

Night after night you sit in your tilt-back chair where you now have to sleep – me across the room.

Neither of us is talking. How I wish, when I get you ready for bed, you’d smile at me and say, “I love you,” like you used to.

How I wish you would say, “Remember when …”

You have no idea how much I want to hear you say those words. How much it hurts to be the only one who remembers.

Please talk to me.

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