When I was a little girl, many years before I became a Scottie Mom, there weren't many sounds of silence whenever my grandfather was around. That man loved to talk and I loved to listen. And when he wasn't talking, he was shuffling about his house, taking care of some chore or another while humming, whistling or singing a tune (usually, "Oh My Darling, Clementine"). When he caught me looking at him and listening in, he would break out a smile I'm sure no one could refuse to return. Over the years, I spent countless hours listening to that man talk...about the weather, about what he was going to have for dinner, about grandma and about life in general.
Each time I found myself on his front door, I was greeted with a heartfelt, "Hi, sweetheart! How are ya?" For the first 14 years of my life, the greeting was accompanied with a great, big hug. When we moved hours away, I lost the hug but I got the sound of surprise in his voice every time I called - even if I called every week - when he heard me say, "Hi, Papa!" I didn't have to say who I was. He knew my voice and I knew his. I made an effort to visit Rhode Island, my childhood home state, once a year after the move and every time I did, I always found myself winding up at the one place I could go where nothing would have changed: Papa's house. There was something very comforting about sitting in his kitchen, listening to him ramble on about nothing in particular.
Three days ago, Papa and I talked for the very last time. There was no mention of the weather, of what he'd have for dinner or any of the usual topics of conversation. This time, I called knowing it was my time to talk and his time to listen. The cancer had taken too much for him to be able to say much of anything and I was warned I may not even get a response but to rest assured that he could hear me. I held the phone close and I said, "Hi, Papa." Then, came the sound of silence...Just when I started to continue talking, I heard him breathe, "Hi, Mandy." The words didn't come out clear and they were hardly audible but they were enough to make me smile. I told him I loved him about three or four times - the only thing I could think to say - and much to my surprise, he said it back. Again, very faintly and barely understandable but he had said it and that's all I needed.
And with that, our conversation was over. Undoubtedly, it was the shortest conversation we ever had. And though it was mostly filled with silence, it was by far one of the most meaningful. I will never let go of the memory of that last call when words couldn't fill the silence and we were forced to say everything we wanted to without the formalities of casual conversation and small talk. Papa passed on less than 24 hours after that last call. He left to be reunited with my grandmother - his wife of 56 years - who just left us nine months ago. And though I suspect it will take me a long while to get used to the sounds of silence that will come with his passing, I bet the two of them have a lot of catching up to do and I take comfort knowing that he'll have someone to talk to about the weather, about what's for dinner and even about the life he built and the family that still longs for him here on Earth. Rest in peace, Papa. With love, your Sweetheart.