Talking on the phone to my mother is like walking into the mall when it’s full of holiday shoppers and trying to get the attention of someone on the other side of the mall. The last time I talked to her, I told her this when I was finally able to get her attention again, and she told me to shut up, and I told her I was going to write a website entry about her. That is my second-favorite comeback, right behind “I will cut you,” and it’s just about as effective. Because I’m about as likely to actually cut you as I am to remember that I was going to write about you on my website.
But anyway, back to my mom and the phone. I’m pretty sure my mom hates talking on the phone, but she hates IMing more. Side note: on the rare occasion Mom IMs us, she’ll end her IM with “love you, mom.” It’s totally adorable. So between IMs and the phone, she chooses the phone – but seriously, you can’t talk to my mom on the phone the way you talk to normal humans on the phone.
She is constantly distracted by other people at home, the dogs, the cats, cooking, the computer, something on TV, whether or not the air conditioner just kicked on, shiny things, hot dogs – basically, everything. Sometimes you know she’s been distracted because she’ll abruptly start a conversation with someone else. That’s especially funny when you think she’s talking to you, and you’re like “what the hell?” and she gets all exasperated, like, “I was talking to DAD.” Sometimes you have to infer that she’s distracted because you’ve just asked her a question and you hear nothing but silence on the other end. Silence never means she’s thinking about what you just said. It always means she’s stopped listening.
When I was on the phone with her the other night, she started to break up a potential fight between the insane weenie dog and the kitten, and then Dad asked her what she was doing, and so she explained it to him, and they had a conversation about it, and whatever, it’s a good thing I had a nail file nearby so I could have something to occupy my time until she remembered what that black plastic thing in her hand was all about. Sometimes I just hang out and wait. Sometimes I get all pissy and am like, HELLO, I AM NOT IN THE ROOM WITH YOU. There’s no point in continuing to talk because you’ll have to repeat everything anyway.
Mom isn’t quite comfortable getting the call waiting, so she often hangs up on people by accident. She also sometimes presses buttons on the phone by accident when she balances the phone on her shoulder so she can do something else at the same time. It’s like talking to a four-year-old. She can’t be bothered to memorize my home number (which is REALLY easy) or to check their caller ID for it, so half the time she calls my cell phone, and if I happen to have it on, I’ll ask her why she called the cell, thinking maybe something was wrong with my home phone, which is when she’s all huffy like “I don’t know THAT number. I only know THIS number.”
She called my cell the other day, and when I answered the phone, she said, “Do you know where that blue backpack is?”
This made as much sense to me as it probably does to you right now. It turns out that sometime when I was in college, Ginny had a backpack that broke, and they sent it back, and JanSport sent them a new one, and it was blue, and did I know where it was? I did not, because
a) I was in college 800 miles away when this happened,
b) We didn’t even live in the same house then, and
c) It was almost TEN YEARS AGO.
I pointed this out and suggested she call Ginny. She says she doesn’t know Ginny’s number. I tell her to get a pencil and I’ll recite it to her, since I’ve memorized it, and she tells me that she just didn’t feel like looking it up, and then recites 8 of the 10 digits to me. And once again, I bet Ginny’s number is on the caller ID.
All phone conversations with my mom have a predetermined time limit that is etched in stone somewhere in the murky recesses of her brain. We never know what the time limit will be, but at some point, sometimes even mid-sentence, she’ll abruptly announce that she can’t stay on the phone anymore, and then she says her standard “loveyoubye,” which is very Mom of her (and we love it), and sometimes she hangs up on us. Sometimes she starts this and I’m like, MOM, you called ME. Doesn’t matter – she has to go. RIGHT THAT SECOND.
Mom is quite capable of having a normal conversation with you on the phone, provided that she’s home alone and it isn’t too late in the evening. She can’t focus when other things are around to stimulate her attention, and she gets all loopy after about 8:30. Most of the time, talking to her on the phone is a surreal experience where you may or may not get to the point of the phone call eventually.
Sometimes it’s maddening. Sometimes it’s hilarious. But either way, it’s very, very Mom, and if she reads this she will remind us that these are the stories we’ll tell about her when she’s dead and gone. We tell her we’re getting started early.