Essay: Mom's Voice

May 9, 2015

Sunday, if you’d lost track, is Mother’s Day.  And if you’re not going to be with your mom, don’t forget to give her a call.  But this year, Lake Effect essayist Mel Miskimen thinks back on some calls she got from her mother:

I kept some of my mother’s voice messages and made them into a playlist on iTunes. I play them whenever I need . . . you know, something. She didn’t have Alzheimer’s, just dementia. Just? Officially her brain was shrinking . . . which is normal as we age, but . . .       I listen to The One About The Cake after a big family get-together, first thing in the morning, when I sit down to write at my computer because that’s the time she would have called and interrupted my writing mojo.

Friday 10:42 am -"Hi Melly, this is mother. I just want to tell you what a great time we had yesterday, it was very special and the cake was just delicious. Bye-bye."

I remember mentioning to her that I needed help putting a zipper in my son’s very expensive, low mileage, winter jacket, not right away, because it was August. We had time. I had other things to do, but, Mom’s list was all about the zipper:

Thursday 1:57 pm - "Hi Melly, it's your mom. Come over here tomorrow and pick me up. I'll show you how to do that zipper foot. Bye."

Friday 5:46 pm - "Hi Melly, it's your mother. I wondered if you got the zipper in? If not, I'll come tomorrow and help you with it. Bye."

Was she sitting at her kitchen table, staring out the window, waiting, waiting, waiting for me to ring her on the zipper hotline?

Wednesday 12:28 pm - "Hi Melly, it's your mom. Did you get the zipper in? Um, call back when you get time. Bye-bye."

Why had I been avoiding her calls? Because . . . I was a teensy weensy bit annoyed. Didn’t she have anything better to do than obsess over a damn zipper, which made me feel guilty, I mean, she’s my mother, and someday she might not be here . . .

A month later, following her first hospital-rehab stint – she fell, her legs just gave out, she said, and, I walked into the kitchen, she was sitting on the pad of her walker. She had aged five years in five days, and I was afraid to give her a hug. I didn’t want to break her. I told her I was worried about her. She assured me she was just tired. The next day she called and left a message.

Tuesday 9:47 am - "Hi Melly, it's your mom. I'm doing much better today. Um, I got up and I ate my breakfast and I'm just - I'm doing better. So you don't have to worry about me. If you were gonna worry, don't worry about me. Bye-bye."

She had given me the okay not to worry but . . . still, I worried . . . was I emotionally prepared for what could happen next? The weaker she got, the less she called.

She went into the hospital right after Easter for surgery to alleviate fluid build up around her shrinking brain. And, it went well, but, the doctors said we shouldn’t expect a miracle.

The last phone call my mother made, was not left on the answering machine. It was after 10 pm. The hospital name came up on the caller I.D. Uh. Oh.  I took a deep breath before I answered. It was my mother.

Melly . . . Where IS your father?!

Her voice was strong. And I thought, wow, maybe the doctors were wrong. Maybe a miracle?

            He said he was coming to pick me up!

            I’m at the airport! Waiting! >click<

The nurses all said it was the drugs and the shock of surgery, but . . . a couple days later guess what? she took her one way flight to the after life, so . . . my opinion . . . I think she was at the airport. Waiting. And someday my father will show up, meet her at the baggage claim and together they’ll board a flight to...where ever. And I’ll have one last voice mail, of the two of them:

"Hello?"

"Hello?"

"Who is this?"

"Marcellus. Who's calling?"

"This is Marian. Are you in the basement?"

"Yeah. Are you calling me?"

"No! I just got done talking to Melly."

"Oh, ok."

"Ok, bye-bye."

Lake Effect essayist Mel Miskimen is a contributing writer for More Magazine, guest blogger on The Huffington Post and the author of Cop's Kid. She lives in Milwaukee.