A few of my friends recently shared an article on Facebook called “I’m an Adult Woman, and I Call My Mother Three Times a Day.” Since losing my mother four years ago to bladder cancer, when she was 54 and I was just 24, I’ve realized that what I miss the most is talking to her on the phone. When this article popped up, I felt frozen by the title. After reading it, I felt far less frozen, because the author graciously touched on adult women like me, who no longer have the chance to talk to their moms. It felt good to be thought of, to be honest. More than that, I was reminded that I’m not alone, so I hope writing about my own experiences is therapeutic for readers beyond myself.
It might seem strange that of all the things I miss, the memory of our phone calls flood my heart the most. Of course I miss hugging her. I miss watching Oprah together. I miss her humongous smile, the grey sweatpants she wore when washing dishes, and the way she’d say “okey dokey” whenever she stood up with a purpose. I even told my friend Colleen that she kind of looks like my mom from the profile, so she graciously lets me stare at her longer than is considered socially appropriate when we’re chatting during girls nights. It’s nice to see hints of my mom in other people…and in myself. In the structure of my hands, the way my collar bones meet my neck, and so many of my mannerisms. I’d give anything to be in her presence one more time.
But more than anything, I want to pick up the phone and call her.
My mom died on Labor Day 2012. By the time I post this, Labor Day will have been this past Monday. The actual date was September 3rd, which was a week ago tomorrow (last Saturday). These four years have flown by, yet so much has happened. Four months after she passed, I became Miss New York. Six months later, I moved cities. Over the next two years, I held my first office job, had my heart broken (yet again), and renewed my faith in God. I gained some traction with my writing and developed new dreams for my future. After that, I moved back home to Virginia Beach, where I met my husband and got married. Now, I’m experiencing life as a military wife, and concentrating on this blog, which is crazy and exciting and terrible all at the same time. Recently, I even started a new position as a talent scout for the unscripted department of a pretty major production company.
Since 2012, I’ve lived in 5 different apartments/houses. The wrinkles in my forehead are more pronounced. My ankle has a new scar on it. I wear fanny packs in public. A lot has changed.
For four years, I haven’t been able to tell my mom any of those things, or all of the things in between. I haven’t told her about the new wine I tried or about the waiter that was rude one weekend. I haven’t told her about the new carpet I bought, how my brand new tennis shoes ended up being a 1/2 size too small, or that I learned how to make stuffed peppers. I haven’t been able to ask her what I should do about the weird red dot on my leg or if I’m overreacting during a disagreement with my husband. What I would give, oh, what I’d give to be able to pick up the phone and call her like I did every day in my early twenties.
Just like the woman who wrote the article mentioned above, I learned in my young adulthood that no one– absolutely no one— truly cares about the menial details of your life quite like Mom. You can gloat without feeling guilty, you can cry without feeling stupid, and you can rant without feeling tiresome. So many days over the last four years, I just wanted to talk. I wanted to talk completely freely. And while I have devoted friends and my loving family, I can’t bring myself to talk to them with the same openness with which I talked to my mom.
My husband has been a lifesaver in many senses, both in providing for my basic survival and in renewing my emotional wellbeing. I hadn’t realized how the three years before meeting him had carved such a painful hole in me– an emptiness felt from not having a steady person to talk to on a daily basis, which had previously been filled by my mom. Trust me, I think my friends and family will have no problem remembering just how much I spilled my guts to them over those years– and I can’t thank them enough for loving and listening unconditionally– but I was always trying to shut it off. Sometimes failing, but always trying. No matter how much I blubbered, I was always completely aware of my audience, and knew they only had a certain capacity for listening before the conversation turned totally annoying and self-indulgent. I’m sure I surpassed that line far more often than I intended, but the point is that I tried. I was aware.
Finally, with my husband, I am able to let go of that awareness like I did with my mom. I can be overjoyed or devastated or frustrated or talkative for no reason, and he genuinely cares. He tells me all the time that he loves listening to me go on and on, no matter what. Finally, I have my “person” again, and it’s restored my soul more than I can ever explain.
Even so, I still pick up my phone on occasion as a habitual reaction, intent on calling my mother. Four years later, I still have to remind myself that I can’t. I can’t call her and explain how nerve-racking it is to hear back from an audition, and all the possibilities of why the cast hasn’t been announced. I can’t call her when I’m sad because I miss Aaron while he’s deployed. I can’t call her to spill every single detail about my first day at the new job.
Each year, I write something in honor of my mom on the date, or near the date, of when she died. This year, that article on Facebook made me want to share how grateful I am that my mom was my #1 confidant for 24 years. No matter where I lived or what crazy escapades I explored in life, she was always one phone call away. In the final years before her health so quickly digressed, my favorite part of the day was calling her on my walk to work in Times Square each afternoon, neither of us caring that I was interrupting her work day. I genuinely looked forward to seeing her name pop up on my phone, or hearing her answer on the other end of the line.
If you talk to your mom all the time, be proud of it. Appreciate it. If you don’t, that’s okay. Just start calling her a little more often.
Writing about her each year gives me time to grieve. To truly let myself miss her. I can’t let myself go there every day, because it’s too hard. That’d be a fruitless, debilitating habit. I certainly can’t fight the grief on occasion, but each year on September 3rd and/or Labor Day, I actually welcome the grief through writing a blog. I never finish these without ending up squinting at the screen through my tears, but that means she was real. She was here. And that’s why I miss her so much.
Mom, I’m not sure how it works up there in Heaven, and what level of communication you can receive, but just know that I miss your voicemails, your name in my phone, and the countless hours we spent loving each other through life, no matter how far apart. I don’t need you any less now than I did back then, but if you had any hand in leading Aaron my direction, thanks for sending him as my new #1 confidant. And thanks for teaching me to lean on God, because He is how I get through it all. I love you, Mom. I’ll always miss you, no matter how many years pass.