Eventually it is going to sink in: I need to call my mother more often. Children are often chided to call their parents, but it can be so easy to place that call on the back burner until we hear from them. I genuinely dislike talking on the phone and avoid it as much as possible, so it is very easy for me to put that phone call on the “to-do” list without any urgent stars next to it. Then I get a call from her when she thinks I am done with work, or even in the middle of the day, leaving the short message, “call when you can.”
“Call when you can” means “I have bad news to share with you.”
Just as I am bad about calling, so is my mother, but lately I have been getting that call on an almost weekly basis. The news always comes with “a name I have known all my life” and “died” or “cancer” or “stroke” or “heart attack” or “other serious condition.”
I have a hard time accepting my own age, and I am still surprised by all this news. I have to realize that at my age, people who were adults when I was growing up are now old and people who were old when I was growing up are now really old. Five people who lived within a mile of me when I was growing up (and I grew up in the country, so five people is a HUGE percent of the neighbors) have died in the last year. Three of those people were like parents or grandparents to me.
I do not think about aging. It does not cross my mind. It just happens (thank goodness).
Perhaps, though, aging should be more in the forefront of my consciousness. I moved away from my childhood community over twelve years ago, so it is easiest to preserve that community in my memory just the way it was when I left. The phone calls have reminded me that though I moved away from the people I knew well, life, and all its changes, has continued for them and for me. Not only do I need to call my mother more often, I need to remember all the people who have been important in my life more than just at the funeral.
The recent visits home and the frequent thoughts of those who have died or are suffering extended illness have made me reminisce for the place I still call home. As much as I miss it and miss those who are a part of it, life has continued for them and for me. Despite the passing pangs of nostalgia, I have no lasting desire to go back. Moving on, though, does not change the value I have for those people and places in my history: I am who I am because of their influences and no clichéd appreciation diminishes the gratitude I have for those influences.
Yes, I do need to call my mother more often. I also need to call the community.
“Hello. It’s Rusty. Yes, it’s been too long. How are you?...”