Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Unlikely Friendship

I have a special relationship with my mom. Not special as in unique, but special in that, as odd as it is, it is dear to me.

We talk on the phone…

A lot.

My friends tease me about it from time to time, but it’s ok. I know why they tease. I used to think the same when I was younger.

See, this is something I learned from years and years and years of listening to her and her mother.

I never understood it. They didn’t always talk long, and it wasn’t always serious; sometimes it was just a short exchange of half-gasped out sentences and head-back laughter. Other times, they’d talk for hours jumping from one topic to another: serious here, light-hearted there, I need directions to the nearest Starbucks, and can you guess what Aunt Mary-Lee did?

The things they found to talk about… Sometimes it almost seemed as if they would create an excuse to call the other one, if only for a few seconds of chatter.

I didn’t think they were that much alike. So, I couldn’t see how they could have that much to talk about, or even want to call each other every single day. Given that I wasn’t exactly close with my mom growing up, it was probably a little bit more of a stretch for me than it might have been otherwise.

When I left for school, I would not have described my mom as a “friend.” Nor would I have ever thought it would be possible to have that kind of relationship.

Then one day, her mother died. We didn’t see eye to eye on things, so I didn’t know how I would react. But, it only took a few days of being home, and it became glaringly obvious to me that she was gone.

My mom’s phone buddy didn’t call anymore.

She talked to plenty of people over those few days, but no one that could make her laugh or keep her attention like her mother could. There was no one that she spoke to with the same zeal and frequency. At that time, I distinctly remember thinking that my mother was going to be so lonely.

I had had just enough of college life that my mother was starting to become a much smarter person than I’d ever given her credit for and my old high school self was beginning to resemble something akin to a poltergeist. I felt a bit bad about the way I had treated her back then, so I decided I’d try to make it up to her. I would try to soften the blow a little in my own little way.

My plan was simple. I would try to call her every day and talk like she used to do with her mom, at least, for a while. I would sacrifice and be her phone buddy until it didn’t seem so sad and lonely. That would only take a few weeks, maybe months, right?

I didn’t tell my mom what I was doing, and after a couple of days, there wasn’t much that was new to talk about or any reason for her to come up with things to say. I think it took about a week before she got tired of hearing from me, although she never said it. To be fair, I wasn’t always the most pleasant person with which to talk. It occurred to me early on that despite my good intentions, I wasn’t helping her feel any less lonely. I was quite possibly only making her feel worse that her real buddy was gone.

It was hard to keep calling.

Still, I refused to give up. If there is one thing you can say about me, it’s that I’m stubborn. Eventually, she seemed to accept that, for some reason, this was my new thing. I was not going to quit calling. Short “hellos” and “how are you doings?” to and from work turned into hour-long conversations on the drive to school until the day just became one giant pause in the discussion that started at 5am and ended at 9pm.

It wasn’t until one of us was gone for a week and couldn’t call that I realized that those daily chats had become an important part of my life. I might have started them for her, but, at some point, I had kept calling for me.

Without realizing it, my mom had become a person that I could talk to about almost anything. My mom had become my friend.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We still got annoyed with each other, and we continued to get into arguments (we are still mother and daughter). But, it would start to feel odd if I didn’t hear from her after a few days, even if I was mad.

So, I call her, even if I have nothing to say. At those times our conversations can be summed up as a series of well choreographed sighs bracketed by a “Hello” and a “Love You.” I know before I call that’s all it will be, but it doesn’t matter. Sometimes I will call her for directions, even though I have GPS on my phone, just as an excuse to talk to her. Then there are the days we’ll chat for much longer eventually saying goodbye after having tried to hang up at least five times and two and a half hours previously.

Looking back, I think I understand a little better why my mother and her mom, who seemed to have nothing in common, would, could, and wanted to talk about everything… all the time.

It’s an odd relationship, I’ll admit. It’s something that began on the most unlikely day, but, it’s also a learned behavior. So it’s special to me, and it’s something I’m too stubborn to give up. And, honestly, why would I want to?

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