by Emma Nicholson of Hot Flashes of Inspiration
My mother called me today. I noticed the call was coming from her cell phone at 4:00pm and the hair immediately went up on my neck. Something must be wrong for her to call me before her free minutes start at 7:00pm.
She is an elderly person on a limited income, as she is wont to tell me, and she does not throw her Social Security away for nothing.
I usually keep up with Mom via email but her computer has been down for about a month now. I encouraged her to call for tech help but I think she has been trying to guilt the computer into working instead.
I can just see her now sitting in front of the blank screen:
“Because of you, everyone probably thinks I’m dead because I have not answered their emails.”
Apparently, her super-powers do not work on anything not genetically tied to her. Or electronics. Gotta give her credit for trying, though.
So, fully expecting to get the death-march obituary report or the “I could be dead. You haven’t called” spiel, I answer the phone.
Me: “Hi Mom!”
Mother: “Your mother needs a new cellular phone”.
Me: ” Is there something wrong with yours?”
Mother: “No. I just need a change. I want a purple one.”
Me: “Is your computer working now?”
Mother: “No. It is too much for me to handle. If you hadn’t moved away, you would be here to fix it for me. The least you can do is help your mother get a purple cellular phone”.
Me: “So you can call me and tell me you could be dead and I wouldn’t know because I have not called you…and do it stylishly?”
Now, I’m sure she expected me to jump in the car and dash the eight hours down to get her a blasted purple cellular phone but, being the techno-savvy person I am, I suggested we sign on to her account to get her an upgrade. I got as far as the password before we hit a snag. My dad, who passed away five years ago, had signed her up for the phone and set up the online account but she did not know the password.
Me: “You are going to need to change the password and contact email on this account so we can sign on to your account.”
Mother: “I think you would do it better. Your phone voice is so much more pleasant.” (Translation: I’m not going to call.)
Miraculously, AT&T lets me change the information without donating an organ. They send the new password to her EMAIL but she can’t get to it because her ungrateful computer is denying her access to the outside world. With a few tooth extractions, I get the sign-in information from her.
Mother: “While you’re nosing around my inbox, tell me what’s there.”
So, I’m reading off a few emails and nothing seems important…until I see the one from one of our relatives. Oh shit, here it comes.
Me: (Bracing myself) “It seems Aunt Agnes died two weeks ago.”
Mother: “Oh. I had heard she wasn’t doing well. She’s from your father’s side of the family. They all die of strokes. You know you have their genes don’t you? You might die of a stroke. She was two years younger than me and I am not dead, yet. I have good genes but you probably have your father’s so you better go to the doctor.”
(Good idea. I am feeling sick right now.)
Next, setting up a new password.
Me: “What would you like to use as your password?”
Mother: ” I like ‘Queen Mother’. I always loved that card you sent me with the Queen Mother sitting with her glass of wine. You know, I have always felt that just was so like me. Do you remember sending me that card? I think it was for my 74th birthday. You know…the one I spent without you because you were too busy to come visit me.”
Me: “Oy vay. ‘Queen Mother’ it is.”
Me: “You need to answer two security questions. What country do you want to visit?”
Mother: “England. No Spain. I have always wanted to visit Spain. But they speak Spanish and your mother is too old to learn Spanish at this point in her life. If you lived here, Emily (my daughter who is darn near fluent) could teach me but you took her away from me. So, England.”
(Pause for me to make myself a strong cocktail)
Me: “Question 2: What is your favorite hobby? I know this one, Mom. It’s Mah Jong, right?”
Mother: “No. It’s reading. You really don’t know your mother at all, do you? I know you are too busy with your life to keep up with how your mother spends her last days.”
(Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I’m dying here.)
THREE HOURS into this conversation, she has a new cell phone on the way. But it’s not purple. I’m not going to tell her. I can’t take anymore.
Me: “Mom, your cell phone will be there in about two days. I will help you set it up when it comes.”
Mother: “Thank you, darling! You were always the smart one. Now, I need you to do one more thing for me.”
Me: “What’s that, Mom?”
Mother: “I want you to help me buy a new computer.”
I told her I would call her back in a few days. I need a chance to buy a case of Vodka and get a prescription for Valium.