I’m lying in bed in my mother’s house. Last year, it was my parents’ house. This year, it is my mother’s. I arrived yesterday afternoon, Christmas Eve eve. My mother has a tree. Much smaller than usual, but a tree nonetheless. She also put up decorations with the help of my nephews. Not nearly as many as in years past, but it almost looks like Christmas.
Missing is my dad sitting in his chair under the heated blanket I bought for him two Christmases ago.
My mom and I watch a movie to fill the empty space. Evan Almighty. When the movie ends my mother asks me, “Doesn’t the house feel so much bigger? So empty?”
Even when my father had Alzheimer’s and sat quietly napping in his chair, he filled the room.
I don’t know how to comfort my mother. I have no words of sage advice.
She tells me of her loneliness, how empty her days and nights are. She can never escape the absence of him. They spent their days together at the office. Now when she goes in to work to escape the empty house, she sees my dad’s empty desk. When she drives, she feels the empty passenger seat. For years, because of the Alzheimer’s, they didn’t spend a moment apart.
Everywhere she goes is empty.
I don’t know what to tell her. I don’t know what to say to provide comfort. I can’t tell her with time she’ll get used to it. After 58 years, she won’t. All I can do is try to fill a little of the empty space for the few days I’m here.