A few months ago, a commercial ran that highlighted a man in the middle of a pursuit taking a call from his mom. As he is fighting off aggressors, conversation ensues about squirrels. The commercial concludes with a voiceover stating that moms call at the worst times. I laughed. I can identify.
Not the part about being chased by goons, but the feeling that my mom calls at the worst times. Kids screaming at each other – there she is. Important work meeting – there she is. Middle of a run – there she is.
Recently, I was en route to a get together and running late. My phone rang – it was my mom. Do not answer, I told myself. Instinctively, I answered. The first thing I heard was, “thank you for answering” in a voice mixed with panic and sincere appreciation. She proceeded to tell me that she shattered her phone. Fine, we’ve all shattered a phone, I thought to myself. But then I remembered that she was living by herself hundreds of miles from home (her winter pilgrimage south to warmth). Her phone was her lifeline and she needed guidance on what to do next. I talked her through a few options to fix it. But it was not enough for me. I wanted to snap my fingers, be magically transported to the Florida sun and fix it for her.
How does that happen? What are the chances that of all the people who have my number, only my mom calls me at the terrible times? Do moms just have a sixth sense for the most terrible time to call and hit speed dial?
Suddenly it dawned on me. All sorts of people call me at terrible times. The only difference between them and my mom is they get silenced at those terrible moments – sent to voicemail for me to respond at a later time when life is calmer. But my mom escapes that treatment. She is the only call I take no matter what. Even when the timing is terrible and it does not make sense to answer. I just have to. It is the least I can do. I have amassed an unpayable debt and answering is a chance to chip away at that accrued debt. This woman has been on call for me my entire life. She always answers my calls and has stayed on the other end for hours at tenuous times in my life. At a minimum, I can pause from what I am doing and answer her call.
The only problem: sometimes my voice has annoyance or irritation in it. That is not fair. She did not know what was happening on the other end of the line. She just dialed her child to check-in, to share a thought, to ask a question. Usually, when things calm down – I call her back to apologize if I was short. And there she is, forgiving and telling me she understands.
With my mom’s birthday in the coming days, my present of embossed stationery seems grossly inadequate (even though requested by her). Maybe a slightly more appropriate gift (mom – if you are reading this, the stationery is still coming), is to back off the wearied tone the next time she calls at a terrible time.