Mom and Dad are gone. I’m not complaining. I know in my 60’s it would be unusual to have a living parent. But still, normal or not,
I miss them.
Most recently, I’ve been talking to my Mom who has been gone for 2 years.
“I feel like calling Mom lately.” I texted my 3 sisters.
“Does this happen to you?”
“So much, it happens often.”
She was 87 and died 2 years ago, I realized I spoke more to her on the phone than I did in person over the last 10 years. And, frankly, we had easier conversations that way.
I loved the sound of my mom’s voice. She was a theater major and masked her anxieties behind her silky voice. Frankly, it was hard to know what she was honestly feeling unless she was outraged by a friend, or a medical service or a bad meal. She wasn’t a touchy feely mom. She didn’t hug. But she cared about people. She cared about her kids. She loved her friends … loved to make lists and create social events for them. She was always busy.. It was hard to get her attention. Her love was channeled indirectly. She told other people wonderful things about me. Somehow I felt her love through their comments.
“Your mother was telling us all about your new magazine. She loves it.”
“Really, wow! That’s so good to hear.”
“Yes and she told me how much she loved her visit with you. And she loves your new house.”
“Really, she said that? Wow.”
But then, something happened and she began connecting more directly. She got older. She turned 80. And suddenly there was a glimmer of softening in her face, and her tone. She was more available, more present. More willing to be vulnerable. She would look at me and actually see me, I could feel her. She listened more. We would end our phone calls with, I will call you later Mom. And she would reply, I certainly hope so, I certainly hope so. And, I would smile. That made me feel loved.
In her last few years she started asking permission to give an opinion. Her whole life she told not asked. But in her 80’s she started to ask permission.
“May I give you a suggestion?’
“That carpet looks worn out and a brighter color would liven up the room.”
“Oh, but I like that carpet.”
She raised her brow and searched for something in her purse pretending she didn’t care. She tried to mask her displeasure I wasn’t inviting her in for a full redecorating convo.
With 4 girls, Mom, was always trying to redecorate our spaces. it was her way of showing love but it came off as criticism and judgment. It was hard to appreciate that these were generous observations.. Her mind would decorate every space upon entry. Her mind took in color and texture like it was pure confection. I could often hear her moaning as she stroked a soft velvet pillow or a fine leather chair and emit a tsk tsk as she touched a faded blanket.
As annoying as that behavior was, I miss talking to her about a new purchase or how to rearrange the furniture. I miss that lady.
But then Mom kinda reappeared the other day. I had an unusual interaction. Last week, when I was waiting to get my booster, I took a seat next to an elderly woman with a walker. She was masked and must have been 95 years old. We had all been waiting almost 2 hours to be called from a long line at the Pharmacy who was issuing boosters without reservations.
“Hi, oh Hi, yes yes, please take a seat there. This is quite the wait.”
“ I know, I can’t believe we couldn’t just sign up for the Moderna booster, but apparently reservations will happen next week.”
“Yes, I’m happy to wait. I want mine now.”
I nodded in agreement.
And then Florence Somethingstein , she told me her name straight away began to talk to me, about I don’t know what. I felt an instant wash of comfort.
“Do you belong to a synagogue here in town?
“I don’t really go but yes,” she said.
And we chatted about our Rabbi who we both adore. She asked me who my friends were. She knew a few of them. She talked about how she missed Brooklyn even though she had lived here in Westchester for 40 years. She had loved teaching in Brooklyn and up until 5 years ago was driving everywhere.
“I hate being dependent, Even though my son lives near me, I hate asking for anything.”
“Well, it seems like you are pretty independent, I mean here you are on your own.”
Sheepishly, she hung her head a bit, “He’s waiting for me outside.”
And we chatted some more about her health issues until my name was called.
“Well, Felice,” she said looking me squarely in the eyes, “I’m sorry you are going out West for the winter.”
Really, That’s so nice. But is there a reason I shouldn’t go?”
I could feel myself tapping into the maternal advice from a perfect stranger who I had developed an instant connection with.
“I like you, I would like to visit with you again, so I don’t want you to go.”
It was a childlike and maternal comment all at once and it landed like a fully wrapped gift on my heart. My heartstrings gave a full tug . I looked into her eyes and there she was. I saw my Mom.
“We will see each other again Florence.”
“I certainly hope so, I certainly hope so,” she repeated just like my Mom would.
I barely felt the booster needle go in.