Running around this morning, unloading the dishwasher from last night, tossing dirty socks into the laundry basket, then picking up throw pillows from the floor, which is where they spend 97% of their time, because my children are trying to kill me, so they intentionally take them off the couch and toss them to the floor on the daily, I thought to myself, "I wonder how Mom and Dad are doing?"
It's been a while since I've heard from them.
Not that I ever hear from them. We only talk if I initiate the call. And when I say "call," I'm referring only to my dad. My mom doesn't talk on the phone. If I want to have a conversation with her, it's almost always through texts, which is pretty funny when you know the back story.
Years ago, my mom wanted to send me an email, but she didn't know how. She said she'd have my dad email me the information. "No, Mom, have Dad show you how to email it to me," I said. "What if Dad croaks? You won't always have Dad to do things for you. You need to know how to do it yourself."
"If your dad dies, then I'll have your brother email stuff for me," she said.
"Mom, what if he dies? What if we all kick the bucket? Then what? Huh?"
Then, like a snotty teenager, she said, "Well I guess I won't have anyone to email, then, will I?"
I couldn't have ever imagined a day when she'd not only know how to email, but how to use a calling device (a phone) to send text messages.
But here we are, and now she not only knows how to email and text, but these outlets have replaced all other forms of communication for my mom.
Mom and Dad do still have a land line in their home. And they even have an answering machine, despite the fact that they never, ever, ever pick up a ringing phone, nor do they ever, ever, ever listen to messages left on their machine.
If they see that they've missed a call from me on their caller ID, my dad will text me or call me back from his cell phone. My mom will just text me or email me to find out why I was calling.
Mom recently emailed me a raving review on my just-published book, complimenting me and saying how much she loved it, and couldn't wait to talk to me about it. Then she wrote, "But don't call me tonight because it's almost Prime Time, and you know: my shows."
Sometimes - like this morning - I'll realize it's been several days since we've had any interaction, so I'll try calling, only to hear the robotic man-voice of the answering machine pick up to tell me they aren't available right now.
I don't leave a message.
I wait to get my text from Dad or my email from Mom, saying they don't know how they missed my call, and how it's so weird they didn't hear the phone ring. Never mind the fact that they don't ever go anywhere, now that they're both retired, so I don't know how they miss any of my calls, either.
But it doesn't matter, because I know and they know I know that they wouldn't answer, anyway.
Occasionally, if I haven't tried calling, I'll get an email from my mom saying, "Well, I guess we're chopped liver." Or if I don't call to tell them we've made it home safely after visiting them for the weekend, she'll email me and say, "Okaayyyyyy, I haven't heard from you, and now I'm worried sick. Did you make it home??"
I worry about my kids, and I suppose I still will when they're adults, like my mom worries about me, even though I'm all grown up, now.
But I worry about my parents, too.
If they don't get back to me with the obligatory text or email after I've tried calling them, I wonder, "Did they have a car crash on their way to one of only two places they venture out to each week (the grocery store and the liquor store), and now their lifeless bodies are in a ditch, covered in broken glass, bottles of cheap wine and vodka, and giant chicken breasts - or "Dollies" as Dad calls them - after being thrown around during the collision?"
Or, "Did they get so fed up with each other after 47 years of marriage, those last five or six being particularly tough on them since Dad retired, because as Mom said, he's 'always underfoot,' and so - even though they're staunchly against guns, she'd had enough and bought herself a pistol, then ended it all for them both in a grizzly - albeit exhibiting embarrassingly poor aim - murder-suicide?"
Or, "Did someone break into their house to rob them, only to realize everything of value was covered in thick sheets of plastic to serve as protection from the cat that pisses everywhere - the same cat Dad insisted he wasn't feeding when it showed up on his doorstep several years ago, but within a week had a personalized name tag, and now has its own bedroom, - so the perpetrators - clearly not cat people - got pissed off and chopped my parents into little pieces?"
I get myself all worked up into a lather, then my phone will ring and I'll see it's my Dad's cell, so I pick up and he says, "Is this the person to whom I'm speaking?" then roars with laughter, like he's done for years and years, never tiring of his old joke, and I let out a huge breath I didn't realize I'd been holding, relieved that they're both still alive and kicking.
I make a mental note to ask the doctor at my next appointment if there's any way to trick Mother Nature so that I don't wake up one day and say, "Dear God, I've turned into my mother," or, "Sweet Jesus, I sound just like my father," and - depending on his answer - maybe I'll just ask him if we can just up the dose of my meds to stave off the anxiety of saying those very words I fear I'll be saying sooner rather than later.
Lord help us all.
There's so, so much more about my family's idiosyncrasies in this little gem of a book, You Should Write A Book! True Tales of An Unstable Life. You can buy a signed copy right here.