Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Missing a magical voice

Last night in the middle of a big confusing kerfuffle I was suddenly overcome by a desire to call my mom and find out what she'd have to say about the whole situation. But of course I didn't. No phone lines in the grave.

This doesn't happen often. Of course I think about my mother, especially at this time of year when I recall how she used to grill me for information about what sort of Christmas gift every member of my family might want, and then she would come through with the book I'd been longing for or maybe a nice warm sweater. Today, it's not the gifts I think of but the warmth in her voice when we talked on the phone. We lived 800 miles apart for most of my adult life, so we talked on the phone a lot.

Once upon a time my mom had a magical voice full of love and caring. Years ago when my daughter was a toddler, a 17-year-old girl driving a borrowed Firebird ran a stop sign and crashed into my car. I was bruised and shaken and my daughter screamed her head off until the police car pulled up with its flashing lights, stunning her into sudden silence. 

My car was totalled but I was fine--or at least that's what I kept telling myself. My husband was in the middle of grad-school final exams and couldn't be disturbed so I needed to deal with the insurance people and find a new used car quickly (with a toddler in tow), and I really didn't have time to be anything but fine so I held myself together for two full days. Then my mother called out of the blue just to chat. That's when I fell to pieces.

Sometimes I just need to talk to my mom--but how did she know?

If I could talk to my mom today, I'd talk to her as she was back then, before disease started eating away pieces of her personality, diminishing her ability to understand and communicate. But even at the end, when she was suffering so horribly, she kept trying to comfort the rest of us and take care of our needs. Lying on her back in the hospital bed, helpless, inert, she would look right at me and ask, "Can I get you anything?"

Last night I tried to channel that voice, to embody the warmth and caring while dealing with a different family member in crisis, but being far away from the situation made me feel helpless, as if my hands were tied. How did my mom manage to convey all that caring across the miles, across the years, across the phone lines? That's what I wanted to ask her. But, sadly, she's not taking calls.

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