Thursday, March 14, 2013

I've Got Her Number

I'm sitting with a friend in a cozy cafe, our heads leaned in close over steaming mugs of hot tea. She is sharing with me the painful circumstances of her husband's death last fall. Once the picture of brimming good health, an avid beach volleyball player, she describes his slow decline through the stress of his work, his emotional instability, mood-altering drugs and the side effects thereof, and the toll of all of it on his physical body.

The one comfort is that, through it all, his love for her was unwavering. They had a daily routine of checking in with each other, and he closed his final call with a reassuring, "I'm fine," and "I love you." I can't stand how simultaneously beautiful and wrenching this is. We're both weeping.
My friend tells me she still wants to pick up the phone and tell her husband the latest news or ask for his help, and then remembers that she can't. I recall doing that in the first few months after my mother's passing. That was four years ago this month, and I haven't felt that urge in awhile. In this moment, however, it feels sad that I don't have the instinct to call her anymore; it underlines that loss of my link with her, the connection that once seemed unseverable.

In 2002, she moved out of her house in Gladstone, Missouri, the one in which she had lived for thirty years, packing up everything she owned, to move with across the country with her own 94-year-old mother, to be near us and to spend more time with her grandchildren. Over the next six years, we were practically inseparable. We took the kids to the park, attended Women's Club meetings, grocery shopped, went out to eat, fed my Grandmother alongside the babies, went to all of the doctor appointments, walked her little dog, planned birthday parties, and ran our store, The Blissful Soul, together. I picked up the phone often to coordinate our schedules, to get her opinion on my latest crazy idea, and, inevitably, to let her know that I was running late.

I wish that I could remember my last phone call with my mother, the way that friend can. The last conversations with my mother that I recall were one-sided, after she had lost the ability to speak. I tell my friend that it does comfort me, in a small way, that I remember her home telephone number. "It's as if," I say, "as long as I remember her number, I could pick up the phone to call her. Even if I know she wouldn't answer, it's nice to know that I could call." I don't, however, remember her cell phone number. It was programmed in my phone, and I never knew it as well. I wish I could remember it. Maybe if I had her mobile number, I could reach her where she is now....

On the drive home, it comes to me in a flash. 818-720-4716. I realize that there is no way this is coming from my memory banks. It was given to me. I can feel my mother over my shoulder, beaming at me with two thumbs up. She's here with me, always, she says. And I do have her number!

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