Just got off the phone with my mom. Sometimes she will call and say, “Jane, I just wanted to call you to let you know I am still alive. I have not passed yet in case you were wondering.” I will say, “That’s great mom.” We will say our goodbyes and that will be the extent of the entire conversation.
Other times, however, she wants to talk. Notice I didn’t say she wants to talk to me. Rather, she wants to talk at me. And, really, it’s no sweat off my back to sit and listen to her. So I often “engage” in long, one-sided conversations, where my only contribution is “Hello” and “Goodbye.” And I am happy to do so. I can’t take her in and care for her myself; I can’t see her on a regular basis; I can’t even live in the same city as her. But, sit and listen to her for a while? No problem. This I can do.
So today she calls and says: “Jane, I think I’m going to be around a little while longer after all. I’m planning to be around until I’m 75. That’s when I think I will pass.”
She sounds like she’s in a good enough mood so I joke, “Really mom? Already planning on checking out, huh? Why 75? Is there some significance to 75 I should know about?”
“Well,” she says, “I’m 72 now, and so in 3 years I’ll be 75. And, you see, I have this really lumpy bed, and sleeping on this soft, lumpy bed makes time go by very slowly. So I think I can only last three more years. Now, if I had a nice, firm bed then time would just fly by and I think I would live a lot longer. But for now, since I have this lumpy bed, I think I’ll only be able to make it another three years. I used to think I’d make it to 80, but not with this lumpy bed. Seventy-five is all I can do with this soft, lumpy bed.” (The really funny thing is that the standing joke between my dad and me is that she will, in fact, out live us all!)
This is clearly going to be one of those phone calls when she just wants me to listen, so I happily oblige.
She then goes on to talk about the clothes I sent her for Christmas. You may think dealing with her is painful, and, well, some days yes and some days no. In some ways it’s actually quite easy. In some ways, she is like a child in that her needs are really quite simple. Sending her clothes, for example, even a simple pair of pants and a matching jacket from Target, thrill her to no end and will keep her happy for weeks. In fact, she has already called me three times to thank me for the “Christmas Outfit.” A $10 gift card to Burger King will also bring her great joy. Give her something, anything, and, like a child, she is happy (she is also very appreciative and will likely send a handwritten note, in addition to a phone call or two, to tell me thank you…yes, even for Burger King gift card).
She then goes on to talk about an upcoming appointment with her psychiatrist and how she wants to wear the jacket I got her to the appointment. It’s got a “fur” lining that she says makes her “feel pretty.” “You know how I like to sit on my throne and look like a star,” she goes on to say. She rambles from topic to topic (a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia) and I listen attentively. After a while she says, “Well, I just wanted you to know my plans of being around longer. I know last time we spoke I told you I was going to pass sooner, but I changed my mind and I didn’t want you to worry. I’ll be here three more years.”
She signs off “Mother.” (Funny, I don’t call her mother, my sister does; I call her mom.)
"Bye mom. Love you," I say and we both hang up.