After a two hour conversation with my mother about drowning and helicopters and weddings and death we decided to hang up. She had to go and I had to eat. A mutual disconnect. But, I promised to call her back in two days time. I hadn’t said a few words of my own. Words I needed to say. Words like blood work and medication and forgetfulness and can’t breathe and scared out of my mind. More than anything I just wanted to tell her I haven’t always been like this and to ask her when did I change? When did I become so anxious that my flesh erupts in angry stinging stress burns? Spontaneous combustion.
I called her back in the sanctity of my bedroom. Clutching the phone as a lifeline to my being I told her about the recent battery of tests. I was launching into the “we can rule out…” part when the phone went dead. I immediately dialed her number, desperate to get her back, to finish the sentence. I didn’t want to worry. But, the worry was on me when it rang and rang. Shouldn’t it be a busy signal if she hasn’t recognized the lost line? The ringing rattled me. I tried again. And again. And again. Finally she picked up. “That was weird,” she exclaimed. “The phone was ringing but I couldn’t answer it. I knew it was you and I couldn’t even say hello.” For some reason this frightened me more than not being able to finish a sentence. What would it be like to be a mother and know my daughter was trying to reach me, to be comforted, to alleviate a fear? I couldn’t imagine her helplessness.
We got through another ten minutes of talk before I lost her again. We went through the cycle of me calling and not getting through. Finally when she was able to pick up I said quickly, “I can’t bear the thought of not properly saying goodbye. It would kill me to not tell you I love you.” Her breath caught and we laughed. This time we hung up on our own terms. This time we beat the empty ringing. This time mother and child went to bed knowing one calmed the other.