February 17, 2013

I might have known

Fri 5/18 8ish couch

I’m writhing and wringing my hands, waiting for either my mother or [her husband] to call me back. Here I am reporting live from the no news is not necessarily good news but isn’t definitively bad news either, though it’s not definitively good. News desk. Is me, with a piece of ABC gum collecting pieces of the almonds I ate from my teeth. The cat is horking in the background. I’m bouncing a little, waiting for myself to do something that I can report upon. Basically, if I don’t hear from her by 9 – you know what, I think I’ll ease up on this for tonight.

I called her Wednesday before noon, then today before noon, then [him] at 6pm tonight. When do I call again? Why do I always do this? I always panic and she’s always “fine,” with some complaints, but she’s always alive if not kicking. And she will be this time. I dread this so much, the fear and the waiting and the dread. The scenarios. People will say I didn’t do enough, I should have done more. We sent every kind of authority over there, the ASPCA, a housecleaner – I’m not going to defend myself…is the kind of thing said by people who are going to keep defending themselves, long after anyone else cares.

Another cat on the desk. I’ve trained them badly. Now I’m thinking I should call the police right away and have them do a welfare check. Why right away? News stories about people using dead relatives to claim benefits while the corpses rot in a chair. He’s been keeping her barely alive and totally addled, and…no, because then he’d have her call. If she was alive, he’d have her call. She’d have called by now if she was alive. So since she’s already dead, there’s really no rush, unless he’s going to commit suicide or kill the cats because I left a bunch of messages and he knows he’s about to be busted.

Logically: She would not call back because:

That’s not her cell phone number anymore.
She didn’t get either message I left her.
* Because she doesn’t know how to work her phone.
* Because he works it for her and deletes messages he doesn’t want her to hear?
She didn’t want to call back.
She meant to call back and forgot, twice.
She is unable to call back.
* Because he doesn’t want her to.
* Because she is infirm or addled.
* Because she’s dead.

She doesn’t have the cell phone number anymore, or doesn’t know how to work it. She’s bizarrely impaired when it comes to phones, for someone who adopted the answering machine and fax as soon as they were available. She doesn’t know how to get her messages, or so she says. Sometimes her mailbox was full because she said she didn’t know how to delete the old messages. He does that for her. They used to have a home phone, but nobody ever answered it, or sometimes it picked up and made sounds like a fax, and then it was out of service.

How long do I wait to call the police? What is the risk in waiting? Is this time-sensitive, or can it wait overnight? What could I find out tomorrow that would make me wish I’d have called tonight? I don’t know the words, but if you hum a few bars…

This is such a fun game! “Is My Mother Dead?” Let’s play it every few weeks in our imagination. Why do I need to put myself through this “creative” “exercise”? It’s a good way to make myself grateful when she turns out to be alive. If she’s not, I will be pretty fucked up, I’m going to guess. Last time I called was 2-3 months ago, that’s a long time. But that’s the best I could do. What else could I have done? What else do people do? They ask rhetorical questions, don’t they?

She’s alive, I know, she’s fine. But I already feel grief. I feel loss and sadness. I know I’ve said and done everything I could or would want to do or say. I forgive you, Mom, that’s what she wanted to know but couldn’t hear. She was so happy that fall, when I was taking her to her doctors. I was there, I was her friend, she was forgiven. And I have forgiven her, whether she knows it or not – in fact, I don’t think she should have to be forgiven, because she honestly did the best she could; she did. I’m grateful that she carried me to term. Later, when it was my choice, I didn’t.

She’s going to be okay either way. If she’s alive, which we all know she is, she’s okay. And if she’s dead, she’s okay. I’d be even more okay with it if [he] were dead, but I know better than to hope, and this isn’t about me being okay. I’ve been okay, because I said goodbye to the person I knew when there was still a trace of her to say goodbye to. Yes, I gave up, and up gave me. I used to be proud of having given her up. Like I was proud of giving up the thumb I sucked for way too long, the scrap of dirty cloth it soothed me to rub. I put them all down. Wanting a mommy was a childish thing, it wasn’t serving me anymore. Wanting my mommy was – I don’t know what to say. A waste of time, in the end.

Bill just called and told me she’s not dead. Either she didn’t get the message or she’s blowing me off. He’s always been right in the past, and he’s right this time too. So okay. She’s okay. Everything is going to be okay.


  1. Lormo says:

    I’m dealing with the addled and infirm right now!

    I feel like because I didn’t have children, “the lord” gave me an old instead. Not as cute.

  2. Marie says:

    <3. And a high five for badly trained cats.

  3. Madeleine says:

    Much love from me. I’m real sorry Janice, but you wouldn’t be as tough as you are without this shit. I haven’t learned from anything that’s been easy. There. That’s my crappy limited perspective two cents. Feel better, and you’re in my thoughts.

  4. Satia says:

    This is so poignant, especially in light of how the year ended. I can’t wait to hug you in person. Counting the days.

  5. Janice says:

    Thank you, ladies. :)

  6. chez says:

    hi ive just finished reading your book THE RUNAWAY i think u was verry brave and amazing 2 i realy enjoyed reading yoir book x

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