Aunt Ruby

by Bella Rum

Aunt Ruby called yesterday. There are two things you need to know about Aunt Ruby. She has a good heart, and she is a compulsive talker. She’s been this way her entire life, and it isn’t easy for those around her. It can’t be easy for her either. She’s aware that she talks constantly, and I believe she knows that she drives others to distraction, but she cannot stop herself.

It is impossible for me to convey how much she talks, how many words she can put into thirty seconds, a minute, an hour.  She never stops. Being a compulsive talker is not the same animal as being a regular extrovert. They need little if any response, they only need to talk, they are compelled to talk. Aunt Ruby never met a period. No periods. She’s just one long narrative.

I answer the phone. She says, “Bella, it’s me. How are you?” I say, “Fine.” She says, “How is H?” I say, “Fine.” And those are the last real words I say until the end of the conversation. The rest of the time I grunt, uh huh, laugh, aah, etc. If I do say something, she will stop for a second, I will think she heard me, then she will pick up exactly where she was, as if I’ve never uttered a word.

She adores H. Why? Because he is a polite and patient man who will listen to her. At family gatherings, we sit with her.

Bless her heart, Aunt Ruby is neurotic. Usually compulsive talkers are. They often drive people away faster than a mad man wielding a large stick. She has a gentle spirit, but strangers would never get a glimpse of it. It’s impossible to see through all the chatter about new babies in the family, friends of friends of friends of her children, sick people, dead people, old people, young people, church, the weather, her health, life in Georgia when she was growing up, and on and on. She jumps all over the place. It’s difficult to follow sometimes.

I’ve learned to put the phone on speaker, and do other things while I sort of listen. This is good for her. She just needs to know I’m there. Every now and then I catch something about a relative or old friend that interests me, and I have to stop her, and get her to go back because I missed it. This is not easy, because she’s entrenched in the next topic, and it’s near impossible to pull her back. If I really want to know, I have to ask about three times.

At the end of the conversation, which she tries to end several times during a conversation, but cannot stop talking long enough to do it, she apologies for talking so much and so long, and she allows me to tell her it’s okay and to tell her I love her and to say goodbye.

I have more tolerance for Aunt Ruby’s talking than some, but you’d be surprised by her supporters; they are legion. I think this is in large part because she’s lived in the same neighborhood since she married Uncle Wishie over sixty-five years ago. Everyone knows her. When you live in a small town or community, it’s harder to ignore or shun your fellow-man. You know him, and he is you or part of you. I’m amazed at the people who help her, who take her to church, do her taxes, take her to the grocery store, repair something in her house. Aunt Ruby may drive you to distraction, but she has a sweetness that seems rarer and rarer every day. She also has one daughter who is very devoted to her, and a niece.

Sorry about the length of this post. I do run on a bit myself.