We shared fifty years of married life. You were the only one to ever call me Annie, everyone else called me Anna.
We met one day as teens the day I took my brother fishing at the lake. You lived the next town over. I think I loved you the moment I met you. After high school was over we married, and just about a year later we had our first baby.
I’d never really thought about doing anything else with my life, being a wife and mother was everything to me. I’d had five babies and I still relished my role.
Some people thought I was a bit simple, relishing a kid’s first day of school or lost tooth or trying to perfect your favorite pie. Those were happy days for me.
One day a cold shadow seemed to enter life in our small town. A pale woman with lizard eyes seems to always be on the periphery. I see you talking to her after church and at the town festival. I know as a banker you see it as your role to be friendly to all but this seems different.
I hear whispers. I wonder what is happening when you say you are working late. I don’t ever confront you. I will never say the lizard eyed woman’s name. I don’t speak to the lizard eyed woman. I pretend she is invisible.
But just as I feel the situation is getting intolerable, the lizard eyed woman’s husband decides they are moving to another town. I hear the lizard eyed woman’s husband is mean, but to me he is a kindred spirit.
After they move, I do my best to forget the cold shadow the lizard eyed woman left behind. Our children marry. I get lost in the weddings and grandchildren that seem to happen every few years.
Our family gathers together. I hear my name…Annie, Mom, Grandma. It brings me joy to hear my name. I don’t feel quite right that day, but I take comfort in the hugs of little kids. The very smallest child there can’t yet say my newest name…great grandma. I get to hold her for the longest time.
After that day I still don’t feel right. We see the doctor, he says my time is getting shorter. As everyone comes to my home to visit, it all seems bittersweet. As the time gets closer I hear your sister say that you and I will meet again someday in heaven. I can’t respond to her but the words bring me comfort.
I’ve left this world. As people mark the end of my life I hear my name…Anna, Annie, mom. I see my physical body in the ground and I am told my spirit must leave this world.
My spirit is unsettled. I know everyone, including you must move on with their lives. I don’t object to you finding comfort in the arms of another, until I see it is the lizard eyed woman.
Our children sense you have changed somehow. You delay telling them about the lizard eyed woman. But then she insists that everything be out in the open. She is now your wife and takes your last name. I guess she has forgotten the last name she shared with her own kids and their father. From that point on the children will never see you without her. The children all whisper amongst each other…the oldest try to piece together old memories of this woman.
I see the traces of me in our house start to disappear. The afghans I had crocheted, little knickknacks I had collected along the way. Even our most recent family picture is gone.
It is time for Thanksgiving, this time at our granddaughter’s house. You say you won’t come with out her. Conversation at the table turns to holidays of old. Laughter. I hear my children talk about me, “mom”. My spirit warms. But then there seems to be an attempt by you to change the subject, as if everyone should forget the family history. She with the lizard eyes purses her lips in disapproval every time an old memory comes up. I feel cold again.
I’m not sure my spirit will ever be at rest until you will freely say my name, you allow your children to speak freely of me and I know that I am not forgotten.