hearing my name

As I get older I hear my name less and less.

True, not all the associations I have with hearing my name through the years are good. When my mother called my name decades ago, what she wanted with me was usually not anything I wanted.

As I remember (it was a long time ago), I liked when my husband said my name, but it was not nearly often enough. After him, where men were concerned, there were pet names — and when they used them, they were calling the part of me that belonged to them, not my whole identity.  Only my name could carry that identity.

At work, the me they called was the job me. Not a bad thing, I liked my work self, but it wasn’t personal. The only place I could count on to hear my name said the way I needed was at family gatherings. When someone so close to me says my name, there’s a lifetime of associations and a lifetime of acceptance I hear. I may even hear love.

But such family gatherings are fewer and farther between than ever.  As we grow older life narrows in to what’s most important, whether it’s grandchildren, illnesses, or just plain distance and the challenge of travel. 

In the days between, I hardly hear my name called at all. That’s a risk of living alone when older. Hearing one’s name, especially when said by someone who knows you, helps one keep hold of one’s essential identity. When too many days go by without it, my edges begin to blend into the surroundings. I drag myself through tasks without really understanding why. Who is it I’m watering the plants for, cooking the broccoli, sorting the laundry?

And frankly, when I say my name aloud to myself, I sound a little too much like my mother!

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