Unreturned Calls

By Ben Leib

She hasn’t called back again this month, which, I tell myself, doesn’t worry me because it’s not unusual.  Nevertheless, the last time I saw her she was strung out, or at least at the tail end of a jag, so those recollections of her are the freshest, and I wonder if she will ever return to something approximating sanity.

Mom was angry on that visit.  She didn’t feel like she got all of my attention, all of my love, felt, in a way, abandoned, because I did not make visits with her a priority, and it was true, she had become something less than a reliable fixture in my life.  It was heartbreaking to visit with my mother.  She was so full of resentment, so full of rage, and so overwhelmed by a deep and inexhaustible sorrow, that it was depressing to spend more than five minutes in her company.  I always tried to escape as soon as possible.

The drugs and the booze made everything worse.  She had a penchant for melodrama, particularly when the intoxicants had so affected her mind that she was incapable of rationality.  If I didn’t play the sympathizer to her paranoid conceptions of a world that seemed intent on destroying her, then I was counted among the enemy.  That’s how it went that last visit, nearly a year ago now.  Mom was mad that I wasn’t consoling her, wasn’t placating her, and she tried to hurt me as a punishment.  She felt ignored and unwanted.  As we walked to our respective cars, Mom pulled me aside and said, “I could die tomorrow, and you wouldn’t even fucking know it.”

So I’ve waited again for her to return my call, and, again am disappointed that she refuses to speak to me.  I am not sure if she is trying to hurt me or if she feels humiliated by the way she acted when we last saw each other.  She’s ignored my birthday phone call, ignored the Mother’s Day phone call.  But, I tell myself, I am doing my duty as a son.  It’s not my job to hunt her down, to attempt to placate her and tell her that everything’s all right, and that I love her above all else in the world.  I have to remember just to be a son and to be available, and probably one of these times she’ll answer the phone.  Though I know, with every passing day, that first contact becomes more and more daunting.

So, when it has become apparent that Mom does not intend to return my call, I go about the second part of my monthly routine.  I sit down at my computer, get the internet up and running, and search the obituaries archived online.  Sorry you didn’t see fit to return my phone calls, Mom, but I do know that you’re still alive.

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