| Musings |

Are You There, Ma?

There was no one to tell. No one who’d appreciate it like she would have

I should really call my mother.

It was about 2 a.m. local time when we pulled up at the hotel — if you could call it that — in Jacksonville, Florida, in all its glory. (Word to the wise: If you ever have the opportunity to visit this neck of the woods, do not stay there.)

That’s when it struck me. I should call her to let her know we arrived. Or text her.

It was a totally normal sentiment. A standard thing to do.

Mothers worry. Even about their (ahem, early) middle-aged, happily married, mother-of-her-own-children daughters. Sure, they go to bed, but they toss and turn and wonder where on the Eastern Seaboard you are and why on earth haven’t you texted yet?!

So, it’s utterly normal to text your mom to let her know you arrived safe and sound, even if it’s 2 o’clock in the morning.

Except when it’s not.

Because the last time I texted my mother or called her was, well, more than six years ago.

Because more than six years ago I was at the hospital with my father and brothers, standing by her bed, when she passed away.

Not that I stopped wanting to call her. For a while, it felt abnormal not to be able to call her, text her, talk to her.

It started from shivah. Sitting in her house, hosting all these people — and she was nowhere to be found — felt so strange. Any minute now she should emerge from the kitchen, tray of food in hand: “Who’s hungry?”

But she never did.

“Ma, can you believe Aviva drove in?”

“And Shana came on Motzaei Shabbos and headed straight back to the airport right afterward?”

There was no one to tell. No one who’d appreciate it like she would have.

In the months that followed, I had to stop myself on Fridays from calling to wish her a Good Shabbos and update her on the latest in my life.

“The baby is finally using words in day care now.”

“The car broke down on our road trip… two days after I took it in!”

“I got that promotion I was hoping for!”

She’s not there. Someone else will pick up. It’s not her number anymore.

Over time… over life… the jagged edges of a raw gash supple and soften, and slowly inch their way together, covering the wound below.

The impulse faded.

I stopped feeling compelled to call, to text, to send a quick picture of something adorable the kids did.

These days, it’s a rare Friday afternoon that I think: Oh, let me call my mother.

Yet there I was, somewhere off I-95 in Florida, about to wake up a complete stranger in the middle of the night to let them know we were all tucked in for the night.

I was physically exhausted from a 930-mile drive, emotionally drained from all the prep and planning and what-if-ing that went into this trip — yet my heart was wide awake.

Ma, did you know Daddy’s getting married tomorrow?

She’s a lovely woman. I haven’t met her yet, but mostly everybody else did. I’ve spoken to her a lot on the phone. I think you would like her, actually.

Ma, this is so weird.

We left the kids with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Plus a babysitter. And a stack of instructions and snack bags packed for lunches and the clothes all organized by day — you’d be impressed.

This isn’t supposed to be happening.

It’s the best thing for him.

The best thing for everyone.

Life goes on.

Except for you.

They seem happy together.

We all want Daddy settled with someone he can share the rest of his life with.

You would too, right?

Right, Ma?

I know.

You can’t answer me.

And that’s what hurts the most.

Because no matter how long it’s been, you never stop wanting to call your mother.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 755)

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