“Were you screening your calls?” asks my mother with a slightly agitated tone to her voice.
“No, I was in the midst of leaving a message for someone else when I saw your number come up on the caller ID. I could not stop the message I was leaving mid way to take your call” I respond with equal agitation. Her implication that I was avoiding her call annoys me.
“Oh, well, I just left you a voice mail” mom says.
“I did not listen to it. I called you right back. What’s up?” I ask.
“Nothing. I just called to say I love you.” Mom responds with a clear tone of love and adoration.
The sentiment makes me uncomfortable. I don’t trust it. It is odd for my mother to call “just to say she loves me”. It is more than the call. It is not customary for our family to utter such things. Not only do I distrust the sentiment but it instills a feeling of obligation in me. Do I joke and respond with a laughing “Well, I love you too mom” or do I say nothing? Do I question her motives? Do I merely thank her? Expressions of love are supposed to be reciprocal, right?
“Oh? Why is that? I mean, what triggered that?” I ask while trying hard not to show my discomfort.
“I got your email…the one you sent…about Amber” she says with a hesitant voice.
I flinch. Again the name thing. Amber. (THAT IS NOT HER EFFING NAME) I gulp and secretly pray she did not hear my slight sigh of exasperation. The email did not warrant a phone call, an expression of love, or any response. I tried to make that clear in the message. I apparently failed.
“Oh, right. Well, there was no need to call. As I said in the message, I just wanted to give you her contact details and to make sure you knew that I don’t mind if you contact her – or not. In light of my upcoming surgeries, I want to be clear, explicitly clear, because I don’t think I have been, that you could have a relationship with her outside of me. I am not brokering those relationships. At least not anymore. Not that I ever did…at least not consciously but it occurred to me the other night that while I never said you were not allowed to contact her I also never said you were allowed to.” I ramble.
If I had wanted to discuss live, I would have called. Did she not see the built-in emotional avoidance in my email?
“Yeah, I get that. Your message has really caused me to think a lot. I appreciate you sending it. I am thinking about it. Thank you for sending it. I just always thought…well., I don’t know what I thought. I was being considerate of you and your feelings, I guess. I don’t really know. It is different for me than your sister … I know you also sent the same message to her.” Mom says as her voice begins to shake. Now she is rambling.
“Yes. I did. She has worked hard to understand me, has been kind, and has expressed her own loss and grief over the ejection of my daughter from our family. She even wrote a poem about it right after I found [daughters amended name]. It seemed appropriate to share with her as well.” I respond.
My own voice is beginning to quiver. If I cry, my perfectly lined eye will likely smear. The Kat VonD liner is the bomb diggity but I don’t believe it was developed to withstand emotional adoption laced conversations that occur at 9 am on a work day when you are least expecting them. I reach for the Sephora pocket mirror I keep at my desk to check the makeup. Mom continues.
“Well, you know…for me…I was…the…the only…one…besides you….that held…her” my mother chokes out the words and she starts to cry. While she is not in front of me, I can see her face. Her lips pulled in tight, her blue eyes swelling with tears, her head slightly bowed, eyes diverted, avoiding contact with anyone. There is likely no home with her yet she will still feel compelled to shield her tears and hide her pain from the emptiness of her own home. It is my family way. Hide your emotion. Do not show vulnerability.
“I know, Mom. I know.”
The memory of my mother sitting next to my bed on the maternity floor of St. Joseph Hospital comes rushing back to me. I see her holding my daughter, her first-born grandchild. The associated feelings, a mélange of anger, sadness, rage, terror, literally choke me. I am unable to respond. I opt for a moment of silence. I am fearful that if I do attempt to speak I may trigger The Fessler Effect. I cannot, will not, shall not, ever allow that to happen in my work place.
“I am sorry. I did not mean to upset you. All I wanted to do is let you know I got the message, appreciated it, and am thinking about it and that I love you” she says.
“Okay, Mom. Got it. But I gotta go now, okay? I have a 10 am project status meeting for the professional portal” I say.
“Okay, love you” she says one more time before hanging up.
As I gather my iPad, iPhone, glasses, coffee and pen, I accept that my mother loves me — now. I am aware she regrets the loss of my only daughter from our family.
I wish I knew that in 1986.