I picked up a Christmas card for my mother yesterday. It was hidden amongst the fliers that fill the post office box this time of year.
My mother died in January 2004. But the long-time friend who sent the card doesn't know that — so each year in the post is a Christmas greeting. Last year, Mom's friend sent a letter along with her usual card. Then, as now, the writing was etched on the paper, as if it took great strength to coax the words onto the page.
My Mom would have been 85 in late-September. Her friend would be about the same age. She had been a constant friend, as I recall. Now the friend, I understand, is in a personal care home.
The right thing, it may seem at first blush, would be to write Mom's friend and break the news. That would only save postage.
One can only imagine, but I like to think that, as Christmas rolls around each year, Mom's friend takes up her list of friends to whom she always sends cards and notes. One can imagine that she lovingly pens her thoughts and, while doing so, recalls those times when all were young, when all shared in the camaraderie that is friendship. Perhaps there is pain as she slowly makes the letters' strokes, but later a warmth as she pastes that sticky address label on the top-left of the envelope.
One can also imagine that many of her cards are, in these later years, being returned with 'Address Unknown' or some such shorthand from the post office. But the postmaster at my rural post office knew my Mom, and he knows me. So each year, he plops the envelope into my box.
You may have guessed that I won't be writing my Mom's dear friend.
Call it a white lie, a conspiracy of silence, a paternalistic way of treating the elderly.
Call it what you will.