Flash in the Pan

A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights

The Telephone

by Janet Caplan

The telephone was not something I thought much about until the morning phone calls ceased.

They had been part of my life for years.
While my father was alive I spoke to my parents, who lived in another city, at least twice weekly. After my dad died, my mother and I would alternate the calls, every other day. The conversations weren't about anything dramatic, just the day to day stuff of life--mostly hers. What was she doing that day, had she done anything special the evening before, how was the book she was reading? If my call to her was late, she'd telephone me, annoyed. There were days that I'd see her name on my call display and not want to answer the phone; but I would and then I'd apologize for not calling on time.

At a point after she'd been living in a senior's residence, she fell and broke her ankle. Before long she was moved to the rehabilitation wing for physiotherapy and recuperation. That's when I began to phone her every morning. She was bored and I thought a call would help. It was hard to tell since she was angry most of the time: angry at the staff and the food, angry at being relatively helpless and old, angry at herself for "foolishly" falling. Eventually things improved and she returned home. As she resumed her routines, I thought that I would as well: back to telephone calls every other day.

Well, don't you think she called me on it? After a couple of weeks, my mother informed me that she preferred our daily calling schedule. "Okay," I said. "No problem." And so I phoned her every morning from that point until the day before she died in March 2008. The calls were never about much in particular: this, that and nothing. Sometimes we would hit on a topic that sustained some lengthy discourse; other times it was hello, good-bye and an opinion on the quality of the food that day. Regardless, it started my day as I was leaving for work and reached my mother just before lunchtime.

After she died I missed that morning connection. Even though at times I felt duty-bound or that I hadn't really gotten through to her in any way, I know she appreciated the calls. Although we were not the closest of mothers and daughters, we shared various interests, a love of reading being first and foremost. I am sorry not to be able to engage in those book discussions any longer. We enjoyed many of the same authors and might find ourselves involved with the same books at almost the same time. Our conversations could be serious, humorous, wide open or guarded; they were certainly not dull.

She told me on several occasions, particularly in her last few months, when at the age of 94 she was indeed ready to go, that she was happy to hear from me and glad that we spoke everyday. So was I.

Janet Caplan lives and writes on Vancouver Island, Canada. Her work has appeared in Dogs in Canada, Canadian Stories, Tiny Lights, in several anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul, What I Learned From the Dog, and in various online publications.

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