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The Voice

(by Amy Volker)

My Mother. Mom. Mommy. Her name is Karen, but don’t hold that against her. She was born in 1947 to Bob and Virginia. An older sister, a duck for a pet, and alcoholic parents shaped her childhood. She married at 22 to get out of the house, had two ginger-haired daughters, and was divorced by 25. Her life from that point on was defined by three more marriages; two step-kids who were tweens when she came in their lives; working non-stop to get her master’s degree and Ph.D.; becoming a teacher, principal, and superintendent; mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend. Then a great tragedy changed the trajectory of her life and the chemistry of her brain. She may be still physically alive, but her brain is gone. That’s what I miss most, our talks. About anything and everything. I just miss her voice.

How to describe her voice? Comforting. That’s the easy word. When we talked, she would present both sides to any problem I had, never sugar-coating the issue. But she also never let me off the hook. I’m not a talker. Still not. As the youngest, I realized early on that if I stayed quiet, I got away with a lot of things, like staying up late watching television while my parents corralled my siblings to bed. I lived in my head, in my imagination, and was fine if I was sent to my room when my mom was mad at me. I must have been around five when she realized that she couldn’t punish me that way. So while sending my sister to her room was a fate worse than death, she would make me sit in the kitchen with her while she made dinner or worked and actually talk with her. Actually, she did most of the talking, and (I hate to admit it but) it was rather comforting, sitting in a big chair, listening to her ta