Guest Written by Patty Balcerzak
I am a transplant from the North. I have lived just outside of Russellville, in the same house with the same man, for 24 years. We have two teenaged children and call the River Valley home. In the fall of 2007 ABOUT…The River Valley was just a means for me to hock my wares. I had started making and selling pet products, and decided to put a couple of product photos in the December issue just in time for Christmas. My parents, Jim and Sue Robinson, lived in Western New York State where I was born and raised, and were tickled that I had an ad in the publication. I was going to send them a copy, but then I decided to buy them a year’s subscription so they could keep up with what was going on in the River Valley and Russellville. They looked forward to every issue because they liked to hear about the “doings” down South. The most recent copy was always left sitting on the coffee table for friends and family to peruse.
They had visited us a couple of times together but then poor health prevented my father from traveling. My mother started coming down every February, around Valentine’s Day, which falls right between my kids’ birthdays. We anticipated every visit, as did she.
In 2009, just before Christmas, my father died. My husband and I packed up the kids and all of the Christmas presents and headed north. As anyone that has lost a family member knows, the weeks that followed were hectic and blurry. After getting back home to Arkansas and into our normal routines, I received a call from my mother. She was bright and cheery and had to alert me that “my” magazine had arrived. It was then that I realized that this “magazine” was more than just a magazine. It was a part of me that my parents could have when they couldn’t have their little girl in person.
Over the years my mother’s eyesight has diminished. It went from straining to read to reading the headlines to looking at the pictures. However, she always knew when “my” magazine arrived. Her home health aide would read it to her and then she would call to let me know all about it (as if I wasn’t the one who lived here and had my own issue). She wouldn’t throw any issues out so the stack on the coffee table just kept growing. My brother snuck out several issues at a time for recycling. Whenever I was there for a visit, Mom would tell me that she saved me the issues and asked if I wanted to take any of my magazines home. Every time I answer the same, “No, Mom, I have my own copy. You can throw those out.”
Mom has moderate Alzheimer’s disease. We had to move her into a nursing home just before her 80th birthday this past October. She has trouble recalling names and events but recognizes “my” magazine when my brother brings it to her.
My family went to visit her in New York for her 80th birthday party. Both of my brothers were there with their families as well as my aunt. I took a picture of her holding the issue with Tech’s ambassador, Jerry the Bulldog on the cover because I work at Tech and my son is a Tech student. I told her there was going to be an article about her in an upcoming issue. She gave me this look like I was out of my mind, although she was perfectly happy to pose for the picture. Hopefully she will remember all this when the issue comes out.
It’s funny how something you don’t give a second thought about can become something much different than originally intended. I sent my parents their first issue of ABOUT…The River Valley to toot my own horn a little bit and it took on a life of its own. The interesting part is that I bought one year’s subscription and to this day, eight years later, “ABOUT” is still sending my mother the issues. Who knew? Well, whomever you are…thank you for making an old woman who misses her baby girl very, very happy.
Guest Written by Patty Balcerzak