Calling Mama

phone-cropped-resizedFifteen Mother’s Days have passed since last I called my Mama. I still miss hearing her voice.

I used to call my Mama on Sunday. Three o’clock-ish or thereabouts. Those were the days of landlines and long-distance charges. Mama usually offered the caveat, “don’t spend all your money on phone calls,” to which I’d reply, “there are worse ways to spend it.”

Mama was of the generation who used the phone for no-frills communication. She called to announce when somebody died, when somebody was born, or when she had some other vital piece of information to convey. And she clocked the time it took to deliver the news. But eventually she came around to the idea that phone calls could simply be for conversation. So on Sunday we’d talk. About something. Or nothing. In either case, we’d take comfort in each other’s voice at the other end of the telephone line.

For 16 years those calls helped bridge the 300+ miles between us, her on the farm in Wisconsin and me in an Iowa town. But as the cancer and chemo wore her down, our calls grew shorter as she grew weaker. Our calls ended when even simple conversation required more effort than she could muster. She died, too young, in 2004.

Life changes when you can’t call your Mama anymore. It’s another one of those developmental milestones that make you realize that damn, you’re a grownup whether or not you want to be. And so on Sundays I busy myself with grownup pursuits with family and friends, at church and at home. But sometimes, at about 3 o’clock, it will feel like something is missing. That’s when I’ll remember calling Mama. Although I miss her voice on the phone, I take comfort in the memory.

Laura Sternweis

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