I didn’t expect Mom to answer the phone when I called this morning. My parent’s phone rings off the hook usually 20 times a day. It’s this intense, calamity-producing annoyance that simply makes you mad. Every time it rings I scowl at not only the sound it produces, but the ritual that follows. Mom maneuvers from the couch, picking up the receiver announcing which seeker-of-the-almighty-dollar aka dad’s retirement fund–is calling yet again. Once Mom announces the incomprehensible company, Dad will yell, “Rose, DO NOT pick it up.” Staring at the phone cradled it her hand, somewhat perplexed, she attempts to meet his command, “Ok, Joe.” Still staring at the phone. in her hand…
If it is a good day, she will place the phone back on the receiver, a half-shrug and walk to her corner of the couch.
If it is a bad day, she has already hit the ‘Talk” button and wanders to find my dad like a game of Marco Polo.
Once found, St. Joe practices supreme patience and responds with, “Hellloooo. Joe’s Bar and Grill… Joe speaking. Or the infamous, “Hello? Well, yes this dinosaur is still on top of the green stuff..and how can I help you?”
Imagine the face of the telemarketer on the end of that? Priceless.
Keep in mind that 1 in 20 calls is a real person with whom they know. More often than not, it’s a non-profit trolling for dinero. Which makes complete sense because the Arndt household has envelopes, cards, semi-annual reports from charitable organizations strewn on every available surface.
But this morning, it goes more like this:
“Hello.” Mom’s greeting being more of a question than a statement.
“Hi, Mom. This is Jodi. I am calling to wish you a happy birthday.”
“Oh, Hi Jodi. I didn’t even know it’s my birthday…”
(I can see her shaking her head in my mind).
“Today’s the day! Today is January 2nd, so you’re 75 years old today. Can you believe it?”
“75? That’s too old for me to feel so young,” she responds mocking such a large number.
I imagine her wide smile, flicking her wrist as a way to shoo the 3/4 of a century away in disbelief.
“Yep, Mom. I know! You’re just a young thing. Getting started.”
“Well, I don’t know about all that, but I didn’t realize I am sooo old,” her voice trailing off.
For years, my mother’s age has been contested by strangers and friends alike. In her 50’s and 60’s, even in year 70 her age was debated, due to her vibrant blue eyes, her sense of style, her way with the throngs of friends who were welcomed into our pantry, to eat junk at the kitchen table. And more times than I can count, my mother has been mistaken for my sister on our annual Christmas cards that line the front hallway of my parent’s house.
Seventy-five years later, no one aside from my Mom misunderstands just how old she is. This disease has wormed it’s way into the fabric of her being, both literally and physically. It’s done a number on her skin, the charismatic smile that shone in her eyes isn’t as radiant as it once was. But every so often, you see it. I see her as she once was I guess. It’s in those moments that I must choose to exist. To live.
So this morning, somewhere in our two-minute conversation that consisted mostly of how-are-you’s and you-ok-Jodi? And before a quick hand-off to Dad, I must believe that she can remember those pearls of wisdom she has shared with me, “You know, if my parent’s ever taught me something, they taught me that if they could do it–this thing called living–I can do it. And you know what? That’s the best gift I ever got. Appreciate today.”
And breathe. And play. And appreciate each other. Thanks, Mom.