First of all....Name that tune!
Tuesday was my birthday. I love love LOVE my birthday. My friend Elizabeth
describes it perfectly when she says birthdays
always feel like special, sparkly days. I think everyone should love my birthday as much as I do. To that end, I helpfully use my birthday in my
email address for Maximum Rememberability. Starting in July I frequently announce, "It's almost my birthday!" People smile at me as the warm summer breeze wafts over us. "Really? When?" "October 16th." The smiles tend to turn to blank stares.
Usually Ritu will keep his schedule pretty light on my
birthday so that we can go out to lunch or dinner or something but the
federal government decided to schedule a large-scale disaster drill
here ON MY BIRTHDAY. The nerve. So he was gone by 6:30 AM. As it was
a Tuesday, I got David up early to catch the bus that
takes him to his viola class. (I asked him if there was anything
special he wanted to say to me and he responded with, "You're old?" I can't imagine where the child gets that snark.)
Juliana woke up early and came down before David had even left. She
sang Happy Birthday numerous times and presented me with a collection of
her old bracelets and a tube of purple lipstick. So far so good!
At 7:30 AM the phone rang. It was my mother. An unusual time for
her to call, but hey, it was her favorite child's birthday! Instead of
birthday greetings, she told me she was having vertigo. She
described lying in bed, coughing, and suddenly feeling
like a chicken on a rotisserie spinning 360 degrees. Seeing as she had plans to fly to California to take care of my sister's children for a few days, this was especially bad timing. Her flight didn't leave until late afternoon so
I suggested she take some anti-vertigo medicine, get back in bed and
give it a chance to work. I told her I'd call my sister to put her on
alert and I'd call back in a bit to check on her.
Juliana and I continued to get ready for school. At 8:10 the
phone rang again. It was my neighbor. Only when I answered the phone,
it wasn't my neighbor. It was David. "Mom, the bus never showed up."
Viola class starts at 7:45. My clever child had stood out there for
nearly 45 minutes. I told him to come home and I promptly called the
bus company. They told me a train had delayed the buses that morning.
I explained that it wasn't late, it never came at all. The nice woman said
"Oh." David came home and I suggested he spend some of his extra time
looking for his watch.
At 8:30 the phone rang again. I was gathering laundry
together and I yelled for one of the kids to answer the phone. They
stood around reading off the Caller I.D. as I yelled JUST ANSWER IT!
Needless to say, between the two of them (each standing by a different
handset) they were unable to answer the phone before it went to voice
mail. This is a personal pet peeve. They know that if they don't know
who it is or aren't sure, they can just hustle the unanswered phone to
me. Instead they feel the need to engage in some sort of existential
reflection over what it means to answer the phone. My frustration
level hit red and, in my proudest parenting moment of 2007, I announced
to my children that they were Phone-Answering Retards. <sigh> That one is not going to look good on my permanent record.
I retrieved that phone message and then gave my mom a quick
call to check on her. She said that just reaching over to answer the
phone made her have a wave of vertigo and her voice sounded thick with
nausea. Not good.
I finally got the kids off to school and went on my morning
walk to help stamp some of the frustration out of my soul. Two friends
were planning to take me to lunch and another friend had baked me a
cake and a group of us were going to have cake and coffee after lunch.
I called my mom after my walk, but there was no answer. I left her a
message saying I was going to shower and please call me back as soon as
she could. The phone rang during my shower, but it wasn't her. I
decided to call my sister to see if she'd heard from Mom. I dialed and
instead of hearing it ring, I heard the sound of dialing. It was my
sister calling me at the exact same time to say that she'd been calling Mom
but there was no answer. She decided to try one more time, then
called me back to say there was still no answer. I told her I'd head
over to Mom's apartment and see what was going on.
I consciously chose comfy clothes because I figured there was a good
chance I'd be spending the rest of the day playing nursemaid either at
her house or, God forbid, the hospital. I grabbed a sweatshirt and
hopped in the van. I called my friend to tell her I would have to bail
on our lunch plans. I drove quickly but carefully. I thought back to
all the times we went through this with my grandmother. A number of
phone calls would go unanswered and the grandchildren would draw straws
to see whose turn it was to go check for dead bodies. She was always
found alive and well but without her hearing aids or with the opera
turned up full blast.
The closer I got, the more my mind started to let in ugly thoughts.
Vertigo....nausea....ok, could be she's just too dizzy to deal with the
phone. A block later I contemplated the possibility of finding her
crumpled in a heap at the bottom of the steps. Another stretch of
driving brought with it the possibility of aspirated vomit. Now I was
getting scared AND pissed. How dare she die on MY birthday! What kind
of legacy was that?
I pulled into her complex and parked. On the way to her front door, I noticed something. Her. car. was. gone. I stood in the rain
and whipped out my phone. She answered her cell. I calmly asked where
she was. She replied that she'd felt a bit better so she'd gone to work.
I--how shall we put it?--flipped. I said, "Are you fucking kidding me?? I
came to your house to scoop your dead body off the floor because the
last time I talked to you, you were too sick to deal with answering the
phone. Nobody has been able to reach you for the past hour.
Did it occur to you to call and tell somebody you were feeling better
and would be leaving the house?" I continued in this vein for awhile because
also? Driving with vertigo? Not a good idea. She apologized
profusely. I offered to come pick her
up, but she protested that she was fine and promised to call me
when she got home.
(For those of you keeping count at home, this was the third phone call
I'd had with her. Still no acknowledgment of my birthday. And me, her favorite child!)
I called my friend to put lunch BACK ON. I drove home to change out of
my sweats and make myself presentable. My mom called to say she'd made
it home. I praised her responsible communication and told her I was
heading out to lunch but that she could reach me on my cell all
afternoon. Horror filled her voice as it dawned on her. "Oh my God.
Happy Birthday! I am the worst mother ever!" I gently suggested that
maybe, just MAYBE, her vertigo was God's punishment for forgetting my
birthday. I like to be helpful that way.
The bad news is that she's still sick and had to cancel the entire trip
to California. The good news is that the glass of Pinot Gris I had at
lunch was delicious.