You need to call Mama.
“Sullivan? Are you on your cellar phone again?” (that’s what Mama calls mobile devices) “I can barely hear you.”
“Yes, Mama,” you say loudly. “How are you?” She lives in a retirement village in North Carolina.
“Well, I have been missing my dear friends in northern Scotland.”
“Oh– I didn’t know you had friends in northern Scotland.”
“In that book I mailed you, honey,” Mama sighs. “What wonderful characters.”
“Oh.” She must mean the Rosamund Pilcher book that she shipped to you eons ago. How you wish her eyes were still good enough to read. “Loved that book–Coming Home. Now, tell me how you’re feeling today.”
“Actually, today, I feel like I have a tiny touch of Epstein-Barr.”
This has been going on for years. Your mother has always taken the news very seriously. Medical news, anyway. Back in the seventies she “had a touch of Legionnaire’s disease.” Can’t think about that–had something yucky to do with leaky air-conditioner units.
“Mama, I’m not sure you can just get a touch of Epstein-Barr. Are you watching too much CNN again?”
“No, Louise won’t let me; she says it’s just an endless loop. I just feel tired, like I don’t have any zip.”
“I know the feeling. Why don’t you ask Louise to go fetch you a chai frappucino? That always makes you feel better.”
Louise is Mama’s salt of the earth caregiver companion. We’d all be dead without Louise.
Suddenly in the background you can hear a faint buzzing.
“Mom? Are you watching Nascar again?”
“Yep,” she says in a tiny voice.
“Please ask Louise to turn the channel. I know you have a crush on Jeff Gordon and all–”
“Well, you have to admit that he is handsome. He looks like your late father.”
“I know, but I mean, Nascar is just so… unlike you.”
“Well,” she hesitates a alittle, “Maybe that’s why I like it.”
You sigh into the phone, remembering when you drove up to see her in the hospital last year. After a good visit and a big hug, you turned on the television and found a Jane Austen movie, to give her a little stimulation, and to get her mind off the fact you had to get on the highway and head home. While you were growing up, your mother never watched television for entertainment purposes; she only watched Walter Cronkite. And then there was the one time that she and your father rented “Brideshead Revisited.” That was it. Little did you know you’d created a monster, until the next time you walked into her room at the retirement center.
“Mike,” you’d quickly phoned your sweet brother in Virginia, “Mom is watching a car race!”
“What do you mean, so?”
“She’s done that whole culture thing–ballets, symphonies, gallery openings. She’s been there, done that. Just let her have some fun.”
“It’s all my fault. Last time I saw her, she was stuck in her hospital bed waiting for that infection to clear up. She doesn’t like audiobooks, so I turned on the TV to keep her company. Little did I know.”
“Well, you’re addicted to the weather channel and TLC–not exactly high-brow,” your brother laughed, and hung up. Mike has a point, still…
“Mom, may I talk to Louise please?”
“Honey, I know,” Louise says comfortingly into the receiver. “We’re changing the channel right now.”
“Try the Food channel. The Barefoot Contessa should be coming on soon.” Mama loved to cook.
“There’s Judge Judy!” you hear your mother crow in the background before the phone clicks off.
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