Phone Home

There is a sign on our front door — ”Karen — phone. Got it?”

My husband made it after several frantic return trips to our home to recover my cellphone.

It would be lovely if I were addicted to Snapchat ( although I think I am somewhat beyond that demographic), or checking email or FB likes or The NY Times newsfeed. Even playing Candy Crush or Solitaire.

Gone are the days when that little rectangle was just my phone. Now, even more than the pager I carried when my youngest was an infant, it’s as important of a connection as an umbilical cord.

The cord still connecting me to my mother.

I am the one number my mother still knows how to call. When she is lonely, when she is scared, when she has no idea where she is.

I am terrified of missing a call.

She has left the little town of 65 years, where my daddy painted the first street signs in our garage. She has left the house that she and my father built, leaving only bricks and plumbing to the professionals. The home she lived in alone for 13 years after my father died.

She has left friends who have stood together through the years, watching the world change. She has left her church — the cornerstone of her life.

She has left her car, maybe the most egregious loss, the loss of independence.

She is losing so much more. Each day a bit more memory fades. Lunch is forgotten, hearing aids misplaced, days become jumbled.

Her actual brain is disappearing, little clumps at a time.

But she can still call me.

I stand in for all the above, desperately trying to be enough. To reassure her that some of her past is still here.

I am still here.

So as I go to bed, I double check that my phone is inches from my pillow. When I vacuum, I push it deep into my pocket. When in a restaurant, it sits on the table.

And when it rings, I take a deep breath.

“Hi, Mom”