Some events happen that reset your world in a major way. You birth a baby. A beloved dies. You take a job and move cross-country to someplace you’ve never been.
Other times it’s the more mundane things that leave an unexpected imprint.
Yesterday I called the Star Tribune. The conversation went like this:
Hi, I need to cancel my mom’s subscription.
Sure, can I ask why?
She can’t read it anymore.
Oh, could I interest you in a digital-only version? How about that, make the sizing bigger?
No thanks. She has advanced Alzheimer’s and can no longer understand it.
Ah, OK … .
I canceled their paper.
My parents were faithful subscribers for more than 55 years. Every day of their life, they had a newspaper. As their Alzheimer’s progressed, it seemed that the Minneapolis newspaper remained a welcome constant for them in the face of the often-inexplicable and unhappy changes they were experiencing. Later after Dad no longer was interested or able to enjoy a paper, Mom still did. I would watch her tuck it in her walker, fold and refold the out-of-order and upside-down pages, offer to share it with her neighbors — enjoying the tactile and social benefits even though her ability to read was lost years ago.
But lately she is no longer interested in even those interactions, having physically and mentally moved to some place that is partly on Earth and partly somewhere else. So, finally, with the latest renewal notice, it was time to stop delivery.
It took less than a minute in my brief exchange with the customer-service rep for this transaction. But years and years of memories of dad stretched out in his recliner reading the paper or mom studying it spread across the kitchen table are as vivid to me as ever. Dad especially enjoyed the Sunday city edition, and I would try to bring one whenever I visited. He liked the additional inserts and, more important, all the classified listings that weren’t included in the outstate version — most notably (and naturally as a longtime Ford dealer) the classified car sections.
If he were here right now, Dad would be the first to say that time marches on. And saying goodbye to someone with Alzheimer’s is a different version of that march, an exercise that leaves a lengthy trail of bits and pieces of whatever is no longer useful or functional. Stopping my parents’ newspaper delivery is just one more thing left on their trail.
So a heartfelt, fond farewell to this daily paper that added so much to the routine of their lives. As much as the big events in our lives shape us, it’s also these ordinary pleasures, like taking time to read the paper every day, that over time compose the makeup of our days. Ordinary moments that take their place alongside those big things — the births, the deaths, the moves and more — and make us who we are.
Jane Beauchamp, of St. Paul, is a writer and web product manager.