I know that plenty of people talk to their mothers, at best, once a week, or even—and I start to stutter here—every few weeks. Now, I’m not passing any judgments, but this just did not fly with my mom. I remember her informing me years ago, as I was going through, shall we say, an “independent phase,” that she had talked to her mom every single day as an adult. I thought of this often, on those week nights after a late dinner with my husband, when all I wanted to do was zone out to an awful episode of Gossip Girl. There were nights when Chuck Bass won out, but most nights I picked up the phone for a quick call. I woke her often, as she snoozed on the couch, my dad watching one of his endless sporting events or crime scene shows beside her. Sometimes our calls were brief—literally a hi and a bye—but on other nights, we talked and laughed until my husband’s eye-rolling became impossible to ignore. I told her what I had made for dinner that night, we talked about my upcoming trips home to Rochester repeatedly, she asked about my husband and friends. There was not much we didn’t cover during those calls.
The last time I talked to my mom was on February 13, 2012. It was late, and I remember the fleeting thought: I’ll just call her tomorrow. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to myself. I told her about the lamb chops I was making for Valentine’s Day dinner the following night, and I asked if she and my dad had any special plans. I distinctly remember her laugh in response.
I sat in the hospital just days after that phone call, while my mom lay in a coma next to me, incredulous that I couldn’t talk to her about it all. And last week, as we marked the 1 year anniversary of my mom’s death, I kept returning to the impossibility of not talking to her in a year. I think sometimes of those nights I didn’t call her, of the times I was too busy, or too tired, or just didn’t prioritize it, and wish for a do-over. I know exactly what I would say.
I would tell her, first and foremost, about the babies. I would update her on my nephew, about how he makes us laugh, about how naughty he can be, about how—even though he still sucks his thumb and takes his blanket everywhere—he’s no longer a baby. I would tell her that he points to the picture of her in his room, knowing that it’s Mimi. I would tell her about my niece, who is the spitting image of my mom at that age; about how beautiful she is, but how touch and go those first few months were for my sister and brother-in-law, what with a colicky newborn and an active 2 year-old. I would laugh, telling my mom that despite our best efforts to help my sister and her brood, we don’t come close to filling her shoes. I would tell her that “Mimi’s pool” is still Rachael’s favorite, and about all the new babies who have joined our family—extended or otherwise—in the last year.
I would fill 3 days of conversation, telling her about the meaningless details of my life that no one but she ever really cared about. About the new car my husband and I bought this past summer—and how I sat at the dealership with tears in my eyes as we traded in our old model, realizing once again that I couldn’t share my news with her; about the bed frame I’ve had my eye on at Pottery Barn and the new rug that looked great online, but sheds incessantly; about the movies I’ve seen and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; about new recipes I’ve tried and plants I’ve killed.
I would complain about every little annoyance from the past year. I would wait for her to tell me to shut up, and then complain some more.
I would tell her about the recent stresses of my job—a new manager and lots of travel—but how I really, really like what I do. I would also tell her of my husband’s new job, how his hard work has finally started to pay off. I know how proud she would be of us both.
I would tell her that I’m experimenting with acupuncture and a gluten-free diet, all the while expecting an immediate, gut-busting laugh and an exclamation of, “Are you nuts?!”
I would tell her that she was right about most things, but especially about how much we would miss her when she was gone.
And, finally, I would reassure her, that despite the heartache and the tears, that we were all ok. I would tell her that this is going to be the year of more laughs than tears, of my sister’s wedding, and maybe, even, more babies.
I don’t quite know what I believe when it comes to life and death, but I suppose she might already know all of this. We’re taking her with us on our new adventures, after all. But, my god, how I miss our talks.