I had a mom memory, a “momery”, as I was driving home from work the other day, April 25, 2012. I don’t normally remember the exact dates of events, but this one was easy because it was 2 months to the day from my birthday, 1 month from my step-father’s birthday, and 4 months from Christmas 2011– the day my mom died. I was driving down Long Street and passed the OSU East hospital where in the week before Christmas my mom spent eight days in ICU, never to regain consciousness after an attack which collapsed her lung. I talked to her a lot that week. But did she hear me? Did she know I was there?
As I was driving by the hospital, I was overcome with grief because I missed her and wanted to talk with her, and yet she was gone. I couldn’t talk to my mom any more. And through my tears, I realized that part of the grief I felt was due to guilt over something I said to her in the year prior to her passing. I regret saying it now. I didn’t understand then what I do now.
See, she suffered from COPD, Emphesyma and Chronic Bronchitis for years. And over the years these three thieves slowly robbed her of her health. The vibrant socially active woman she had always been became a semi-prisoner in her own home. Leaving the home to socialize became a logistical and pride swallowing endeavor as even dressing and doing her hair could leave her short of breath and reaching for her oxygen. So she started to socialize with friends less and less. In her loneliness she would often reach out to her children, calling us late at night to talk about the old times and to seek reassurance she was a good mother and that we loved her. She often asked the same things over again when she called or repeated stories she had told many times before, because she liked to call after she had had several glasses of wine. Like many in our family, she got gabby when she drank. To be completely honest, I started to avoid picking up the phone when I saw it was her and it was after 9pm. I didn’t want to talk to my mom, and I finally told her not to call me after 8pm if she had been drinking. I justified this request by telling her that as a recovering alcoholic, it bothered me to know she was calling me under the influence. But that’s not true.
The fact is I told my lonely scared mother not to call me when she had been drinking because the calls were tedious and annoying. They were inconvenient. It hurts to write that sentence.
So last week as I was driving home thinking about all my current life issues and that I desperately wished I could talk to my mom about MY troubles, fears, and worries I was hit by such a wave of remorse I had to pull over. I had to think this through. I had to remind myself that we all make selfish decisions that look much worse in hindsight. Can I learn from my selfishness? I think so. I accept the fact that I cannot erase a single word or deed from my yesterdays. I pray that the God I believe in let my mom know how much I loved her and that I would give anything for one last late night inebriated call.
What have I learned from my casual act of selfishness? Slow down. Be more willing to give my time to someone that’s asking for it. Being wanted and needed isn’t a burden, it’s a gift. And I’ve learned to try to be more grateful for family and friends that love me enough to call. There may be a time when I want to talk to them and I can’t .