Today would’ve been my mother’s 78th birthday had she not lost her battle with lung cancer nearly seven and a half years ago.
It’s a day I try to observe in some way – some years I take the day off and honor my mom by spending time with my sisters and my nieces eating fried fish and spending some girl time together. Mom love fried seafood and over the years, we observed many of her birthdays at different clam shacks along the New England coast. Mom’s kitchen also was the original location for many of our family girls’ nights.
Other years, I observe her birthday in other ways. This year, the first entry in my new blog, from the sticks to the bricks and back again, is about her and I will visit her grave to pray and place flowers. I gave her lots of flowers while she was alive and know she would appreciate this way of remembering her now that she is gone.
I would like to tell you that coping with her loss has become easier in the ensuing seven plus years since her passing. However, the reality is it has not. Although some things have improved – the sheer shock of her death (although we had nine months to prepare ourselves) has dissipated and my sister and I have recovered from the unbelievable exhaustion we both experienced while each caring for our terminally ill mother and two toddlers.
In other ways it hasn’t changed. I still want to call my mom: at the end of the day to recount the day’s events; when something in my life goes horribly wrong, I want her to comfort me from the other end of the phone line; when I want to know how to cook something; when something wonderful occurs I want to share my excitement with her; when one of my three sisters annoys me; and when there is a detail I am trying to recall about a distant family member.
My entire adult life I talked with my mom every day, oftentimes twice or more a day. Even when we disagreed about something, I would not let the day pass without calling her. Ours was the type of connection that does not fade easily.
When she first died, I found myself calling her number, which initially was alright because my sister moved her family into our childhood home and kept the same phone number. All I had to do was not freak my sister out by asking for Mom or expressing shock at my sister always answering Mom’s phone. Eventually she disconnected Mom’s phone – not seeing the need for two land lines in one house and the other line was connected to her husband’s business. A perfectly rational decision, that made sense while still bothering me.
Mom’s number – the number that was our number since childhood was no longer ours. This bothered me on two levels – one a connection to our childhood was gone and two, anyone I’ve ever known in my life had that number. On more than one occasion, a friend I’d lost contact with during my post college nomadic years called Mom’s house looking for me. Now they couldn’t. A chapter in my life was closed. It’s probably not a coincidence that I have had the same cell phone number for nearly seven years now.
For months afterwards, I found myself calling my mother’s disconnected phone only to get the recording about the party you are trying to reach being unavailable. Damn recording made me cry on more than one occasion – the ugly, cold finality of it all. The stark reality was my mother hadn’t missed paying her phone bill causing her phone to be disconnected, my mother was gone.
Fortunately, I got over the physical dialing of my mother’s number before it was given to someone else – a kindly, older lady I’m told by one of my sisters who still on occasion dials Mom’s number from a life long habit that is hard to break. I can only imagine how that first awkward conversation went with its similarity to a popular hot dog commercial. Instead of I used to live here, I’m sure there was an awkward pause as my sister tried to explain “I’m sorry to bother you. I’ve got the wrong number, well really the right number, wrong person. This used to be my family’s number and I can’t stop calling my mom even though she died over a year ago.”
Today being Mom’s birthday, I wonder if my sister will accidentally call Mom’s number. Perhaps, I should call the woman who now possesses Mom’s phone number and apologize and explain before my sister’s awkward and inadvertent call. Apparently, the woman who now possesses Mom’s phone number is quite kind and understanding; my sister reports after having had several conversations with her.