A text message from Mom

You never know where your mind's going to take you — memories, ideas, and insanities might pop up and make you wonder, from what Guatemala of your mind did that come from?

That's what happened this morning, as I read the latest text message from my mother, asking again if I'd heard anything from April.

Mom had asked the same question a few days ago, and I'd ignored it but answered her other texts, so this morning's messages is, "You didn't answer so I ask again: Have you heard anything from April?" 

My big mistake was bringing April to meet my family for a Sunday dinner, in 1983 I think it was. Ever since, Mom has asked about April over and over, even after April and I broke up in the mid-1980s. I haven't heard anything from April since then, and never will, and I've long ago recovered from the heartbreak, moved on to a short fling with Margaret, and a long and happy marriage with Stephanie — and yet Mom has never stopped asking about April.

She asks about Margaret, too, almost as often. "Oh, Doug, have you heard anything from Margaret?"

Sometimes Mom asks about my late wife, about how Stephanie & I met, where we lived, how she died, but I don't mind talking about Stephanie. It seems sane to me, even healthy, to talk to my mom about my late wife.

The questions about April and Margaret, though, are impossibly weird. Many times I have asked my mom why she asks about my exes from the 1980s and '90s, told her many times not to ask, and explained (sometimes yelled) that of course I haven't heard from them and her question is crazy. At our breakfasts, when Mom asks about April or Margaret, sometimes I answer cordially, sometimes coldly, and most often I don't answer at all.

And jeez, I wish there was a way to make her stop, but there is nothing I haven't tried and nothing's ever worked, except disappearing for years and years — that worked pretty well.

All that's what I was thinking this morning, when suddenly came a thought that seemed mis-delivered from South America. Do I wish Mom was dead?

Hell, no. Mom is frustrating and always has been, but I love her and have never wished her dead.

She's in her 90s, but she's healthy, her mind is as sharp as it's ever been, and she'll probably outlive me. And if she doesn't outlive me, I'll miss her for the rest of my life, and perhaps regret today's diary entry.

When I write about Mom, I tend to focus on the impossibilities of her, so probably I don't write often enough that sometimes Mom says something smart and sweet and delightful. Or she'll remember something I'd forgotten, and we have a few minutes very pleasantly spent together.

I love her, and emphatically do not wish she was dead.

What I wish is, I wish my mom was alive — able to talk about herself and her life without taking the conversation to coma-inducing topics like God and church and reality TV; able to talk about me and my life without judging every comment and every fact of myself I regret revealing; able to talk about the world without complaints over the evils of gayness, abortion, divorce, hippies and drugs, and the sad absence of traditional family values; or able to go a hour without telling me again that I should have my teeth fixed, or reminding me that I disappeared for all those years, or asking, "Have you heard from April?"

Three times I've had a difficult conversation with Mom, about everything in the previous paragraph. There won't be a fourth try, because each of the three times she's listened, nodded her head with a look you'd call attentiveness in anyone else, and then given me her huge smile.

It's a very specific smile, which she's smiled at me after every argument since I was five years old. Now the teeth are dentures, but the smile's the same. It means: I hope you enjoyed saying that, but none of it reached me. And indeed, none of it ever has.

Ever seen footage of crash tests, where a truck rams into a concrete barrier? I'm the truck, destroyed. Mom's the concrete barrier, smiling, and she'll be fine. So now, I'd rather avoid any arguments.

Come Saturday morning Mom and I will have our twice-monthly breakfast, which was weekly until that became too much for me. Twice monthly is working out well, though.

Every second Saturday, I enjoy seeing her, and she enjoys seeing me, and maybe Mom will say something annoying, or maybe we'll be lucky and she won't. After the meal we'll linger a little longer, I suspect, than the waitresses want us there. Then I'll say goodbye and wait at the bus stop, wishing for a chance to talk with my mom, a chance that'll never come.



  1. Any chance Mom is referencing the month? Have you heard from January, for example. Or any chance you can make her think you believe she's referencing the month? Well, Mom, one April I screwed outside and just about froze my butt off. I guess you're supposed to wait 'till May.

    I'm just trying to help out here.


    1. This is right up there with the three masked gunmen in a different building overlooking the grassy knoll, but knope, and anyway I've never heard from February at all.

    2. Not enough daze.


    3. July is hot, though...maybe you can hook up with her!

  2. We may have talked about this a year or so ago — you know how that goes — but "July, You're A Woman" was one of the first singles I bought and played the grooves flat.

    And mentioning John Stewart led me to "Lost Her in the Sun," which I hadn't heard before and will now play endlessly until bedtime.

    Thanks man.


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