Mom called this morning, 8:21.
I was in my second meeting. Saw the number come up and recognized it. Ooma then started blinking: a message awaits.
Mom doesn't call much. No, that's poor writing. Mom calls once a year, on my birthday. As her son, it's my duty to call her. I accept that. As she says, too, I work and she doesn't want to bother me at work. This is a newer, convenient excuse. Work ends by 4 PM on most days, and she knows that. That's okay.
Because of this, I was a little worried. Had someone died? Did a house burn down or get flooded? What's going on?
I called Mom when I had the chance. It was about her car keys. I'd used her car while I was there and they couldn't find that set of keys, and as soon as she hung up after leaving me the message, she found them. She didn't call back to tell me that because she figured I would see the second call come in and get really worried, and she was right. I would have terminated my call and picked up her call.
We talked a few minutes, as I was between meetings (I'm in one now, typing as I listen with half an ear for my 'segment'). She reminded me of a conversation we had while I visited her in October. The topic was run, hide. That was the cry when someone knocked on the door or rang the doorbell, or if we saw them coming up the walk. If we saw them coming, we'd tell Mom, "Someone is coming up the walk." Otherwise the first alarm came with the knock or the doorbell.
We would all freeze, looking at Mom. Mom would hiss in a loud whisper, "Run, hide."
We'd turn off the television and dive for cover, hiding behind the sofa or chair, ducking into a closet or rushing into another room or upstairs, where we couldn't be seen. As I grew older, I'd make games of it, pretending I was soldier scrambling across no man's land or flattening myself against the wall like I was an escaping prisoner caught by the searchlight. Mom would shake with suppressed laughter. We stayed silent and motionless until we could confirm, the intruder was gone.
I asked her when I was young, "Why do we hide from people coming to the door?"
She just said, "I don't want to talk to them."
I accepted that. We laugh about it now, but on this last visit, she revealed to me it was a habit she picked up from her Mother. She didn't know why her Mom was like that, except she has always described her Mother as cold and mean.
On today's call, Mom shared a little more. She said her Mom never called her by her name, she called my Mom, "Old girl." Mom was not the oldest, but the second oldest of four girls, the fourth oldest of six kids. "Why old girl?" I asked. Mom didn't know.
Mom's Mother, my Grandmother, died a few years ago, one year short of 100. For years Mom sent her money, paid her Mom's telephone and cable television bill, sent her gifts. She paid for her Mom's funeral.
Today Mom told me how much more she remembers of her childhood, how mean her Mother treated her, how cold and hateful her Mother was, reaching depths where she did not want to be in the house alone with her. She was never physically abused. Her Mother just didn't talk to her, or said mean things when she did, calling her, "Old girl."
Mom remembers having diptheria when she was seven and being kept home from school. She remembers herself as that young girl, wearing black and white overalls, which were her favorite, and she remembers thinking, "If I sit on the sofa, and I don't move or speak, maybe it will be okay."
Her Mother didn't bother her. She did ask Mom how she was, didn't offer her water. Grandma was in the kitchen, doing what needed to be done, the life of a rural Iowa housewife in 1943, during World War II. Mom said she remembers her Mother yelling, "Come in here and eat something," and she remembers going in and making a jam sandwich and soaking it in milk and soaking on it, trying to get something down her closed throat.
Grandma's habit of hiding when someone came to the door was based on to Mom, and to her children. Mom took care of her daughters' children while they were working, so those kids learned it, too. We're aware of it, but when someone knocks, we freeze, eyes wide, staring at one another. One of us will whisper, "Run, hide," and we'll laugh.
Sometimes we'll answer the door. But some of them still run and hide.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com