Muted

“Mom, do you recognize me?”

Of course, she wanted to reply. It was a foolish question. She was her youngest daughter, so smart and beautiful, caring, passionate – and stubborn, independent and strong-willed. She looked exactly like her great aunt. Pragmatic and idealistic – “Bull-headed,” the child’s father had always called her — she’d been born, her final daughter of three, sixty years before, on a sweltering August day. She’d cried more in her first seventy-two hours than the other two sisters had cried in their first week, combined.

Yes, she remembered her and trusted her, and believed in her more than the others. She was always willing to give and help, always prodding her to speak up.

She wished she could speak up. She’d always wanted to speak up more. That was her greatest failing. She envied those, like her own mother, and her sisters, that spoke with firmness, conviction and clarity. She’d always wanted to speak like that, and it had forever been denied her, except when she’d been speaking with her late husband. She could tell Jack anything. He trusted her in a way no other ever had, and understood her better than anyone else. When he’d died, it was like her voice died with him. Ever since then, she’d lost more and more of her ability to express herself to others with every day. The more she loved those who spoke to her, the harder it was to talk to them.

That’s what couldn’t be explained to them. All the words failed. Even now, when her daughter asked her, “Mom, do you recognize me,” and gazed warmly at her face, her brown eyes wide, all the words she brought to mind failed to respond.

The only word willing to obey was, “Yes.”

To which her daughter looked sad and resigned. “I love you, Mom,” she said.

I love you, too, she answered, but her voice would not speak.

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