On Wednesdays Mom and I delivered Meals on Wheels around town. Since I was the youngest of three kids born in four years, my hobbies consisted of running errands and going to the dry cleaners rather than taking music or art classes. I still kind of like errands. One of our last stops was at Leighton White’s house. He lived alone in raised brick rambler with a large, meticulously kept green yard. The peacock blue carpet in his living room was vacuumed with precision, lines all going the same direction, and not a speck of dust settled on the few figurines that sat on his shelves.
He could have been 60 or 40 or even 35, because I was only a little girl, and to me old was old. Most of our deliveries were quick, but the stop at Leighton’s house took a little longer because he’d want to chat a while. My mom understood that with some of our clients, the visiting was more important than the food we delivered. Each week Leighton, a developmentally delayed adult, would talk about his late mother. “Did you ever know a Miriam White?” he would ask us. We told him we hadn’t. He told us blue was her favorite color, “Like the blue in this rug.” She loved the tomatoes he grew in the yard. He still kept the grass neat the way she liked.
I wondered why he repeated himself so much. “Did his mom just die?” I asked my mother. “No, she’s been gone for many years” she replied. Our brief visits became a way for Leighton to keep his mother’s memory alive, just as his orderly way of living was his way of showing her, if she could still see him, that he remembered the way she had raised him to live. It could be that raising Leighton had been one of the greatest worries of her life. Or her greatest joy. Probably both. She may have fretted, “What will happen to him I die?” But every day Leighton was getting up, putting on his crisp navy blue farmer’s work shirt and pants and continuing to live, despite missing her terribly.
In speaking her name aloud into the silence of his empty house, and to a housewife and a young girl who stopped by, Leighton was not only able to celebrate who she was, but also who HE was in relation to her. He was still Miriam White’s son. That was important.
You may know me as Anna the blogger, the sister, the friend, but when you stop me in the grocery store to talk about Jack, or when you use his name in a comment, it helps me to still be “Jack’s mom.” Thank you.