Call a Friend
I stayed at my mom’s home for the first couple of days after I got out of the hospital. We usually spend a day together every week. During my visits we unravel the mysteries of her computer and its seemingly relentless demands for approval, “Shall we update? Do we want the extra features to some software? Shall we renew a subscription?” The computer is a needy little beast that seems to confound my mom when she most needs access to some message from a friend about an Internet scam directed at the “seniors.” Sometimes she is stymied by the photo of a family member that appears only as a box with a tiny red X in the corner (an annoying Internet variation on the red eyes in some flash photos).
My mom has tasks for all of us when we are at her home. Since my brother Danny moved to Texas (he works there for a couple of weeks, then comes home to be with his wife Lisa until they can be together again in one city), Mom has developed a list of things that he can do for her when he is in town. It does not matter that I could handle some of those tasks for her. They are for Danny and can wait until he is available. No sooner does he walk in the house and give us all big hugs than she is nudging him to come out in the yard or meet her in the garage to resolve some concern. Danny’s wife Lisa is in charge of the mail when Mom is out of town. She is also the closest to Mom in the event of an emergency and can be counted upon to pick up something at the grocery or the pharmacy or to invite Mom over for a shared meal. She makes wonderful appetizers, too.
My sister Kathy has her tasks as well. She keeps Mom supplied with the “real news” in the form of the TV Guide and numerous magazines that she passes on. The magazines then get passed on to some of Mom’s friends. I have been known to take a few minutes to finish a crossword puzzle, too. Kathy also manages the computer, sometimes logging in remotely to resolve a glitch or answer a question. Moreover, Kathy’s husband Jeff adds another dimension to the smooth operation of Mom’s home. He has come to town and has trimmed bushes, helped re-side a cottage, replaced a toilet, all manner of “handy” skills applied. All of us agree that Mom loves Jeff best.
Now Mom wants to take care of me, and I am difficult to care for.
It is not always easy to be “mothered” when you are in your fifties. My mom and I have laughed together over stories about family squabbles in the local newspaper’s “Police Blotter.” As an example, the police have responded to a call about domestic turmoil that resulted from a son’s dislike of what his mother made for dinner. We wondered, had it never occurred to him to leave the house and go buy something he liked better?
Our difficulties started with the battle to get me to sleep in her bed after I was released from the hospital. I say “battle,” but that is an overstatement. Mom is not a kvetch. She is a nudge. She just keeps pushing with the relentless pressure of a military campaigner. She has so far been unsuccessful in her efforts to coax me into sleeping in her bed. There are three more beds upstairs, and I have refused to sleep in them either. I don’t like sleeping in bed. I am a side sleeper. I like the arm of the sofa as a support for my head. I hate the tangle of sheets and blankets. It’s cold upstairs in the winter and hot upstairs in the summer. I have encountered spiders upstairs. I hate spiders.
I bought one of the beds upstairs when I lived there after my dad died. If I liked beds I would sleep in it. I prefer the couch. I don’t sleep much. Sometimes I sleep as little as three hours a night for months in a row. While I was in the hospital I probably “slept” about five hours over six nights. I do not require much sleep. The couch offers TV and good lighting for reading. It supports my back if I sit up to use my computer. I prefer to sleep on the couch.
After Kathy left Chicago to return home to her family, Mom tried to nudge me into a bed by raising the subject every few minutes for an entire evening. We were watching the results from Dancing With The Stars, a show both of us watch. I tried to get her to focus on the show, but she was focused on getting me to lie in her bed. She would go upstairs to sleep.
The woman is a force of nature in the great tradition of fire and flood. She talks during TV shows, even shows she enjoys. When I say talks I mean she talks almost nonstop. Then she is silent during commercials. I cannot tell you how she does it. I can only tell you that I have been known to become so involved in a TV show that I watch with my mouth hanging open a bit. Like a fish caught by bait it could not resist, the TV will draw me in. Only one thing can break my concentration–my mom.
As she did her best to bend me to her will that first night we were alone after my surgery, I pushed back politely until I could stand it no longer. I picked up the phone and dialed Barb.
“What are you doing?” Mom asked me.
“I’m using one of my lifelines,” I responded.
“I’m dialing a friend.”
Barb answered my call. “Hello?”
“Please remind me why it’s a bad idea to kill my mom,” I said.
My mom threw up her hands and went to bed.
When she next met with resistance, my mom reached out and patted my head. “I don’t know how to take care of you any longer.”
You do, Mom. You have surrounded me with love. That’s the only medicine I need.
Last week she gave me a prayer card. She arranged for me to be remembered in the prayers of a religious order. I suspect she wrote to the order to ask if they could pray not only for my health but also that I spend the night in a bed. All of us have “friends” we call at our moment of greatest need. All of us are grateful when our calls for help are answered. My mom has dialed a friend who, if He answers her call, will no doubt have me tucked in a bed before I know it.
That’s the magic of a good friend, isn’t it? No matter is too large. No matter is too small. A good friend answers your call and does whatever he or she can to help. Just thinking about this is making me sleepy.