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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News: A Field Guide to Aging Parents, Sickness, Health and Other Everyday Occurences

The other night - it was a Sunday night after a grand and glorious weekend of fun with my husband, mom, aunt, and nephews - my mother called. It was around 8:30pm, after a lazy Sunday of church in the morning, a breakfast picnic, my epic post-picnic 60-minute walk followed by an equally epic living room nap. I could tell by the tone in her voice that the reason for her call wasn't going to be fun, and I was right. I'd like to say that this was my mom's first nocturnal data dump, but it's always been her SOP. When I was a little girl, Mom and Grandma would recite the list of injured and infirm from among family and friends. When I went away to college, the dinner recitations became late night phone calls to the hall phone in my dorm. Mom's streak continued while I was in grad school, so much so that I was rendered a nervous wreck anytime the phone rang after 8pm.

After grad school I got my very first cellular phone which I thought would thwart her, but it didn't. It just encouraged her to leave two post-sundown messages of doom - one on my house phone and the other on my cell. When I took a job that required shift work that put me on overnights, the telephone would ring at 7am, when she knew I'd just be getting home. I don't know which ticked me off more - the insensitivity on my mom's part or the fact that she always happily chirped a "sleep well" into the phone after dropping her bomb.

And then I got married and the calls stopped. It was the happiest of times. I mean Mom and I still talked and met up for lunch and  shopping, but the nightly tales of trauma stopped. Well, at least for the first few years. And then, wouldn't you know it? Everyone started getting old, including, apparently, my mom. Soon, she was back working the night shift and telling me all of the ghoulish details of this one's MRI and that one's CAT Scan. So, when my husband suggested that we activate the Caller ID on our home phone, I gladly said "hell yes!!" And then I hugged him. And then I slept, like a baby.

I had quite the call-screening operation going until my sister, who had studied at the feet of the master we call "Mom", discovered texting and soon her stressed-out texts filled my phone inbox with cryptic texted tomes of "Call me!!!!" or "Emergency!!!" that covered everything from a broken down car to a nephew at the hospital ER with a sinus infection/allergy attack/school yard scrape.

So then there were two and there was no safe place.

And then Dad got sick and soon I couldn't switch off the family switchboard. After his death, the floodgates opened and every Mom-call was answered, even the after-8pm calls. But, it's been a struggle. Every time the phone rings after 8pm, all I can hear going through my head is that song from The Wiz - "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News". Not familiar with this little ditty, where's here's a verse:

When you're talking to me
Don't be cryin' the blues
'Cause don't nobody bring me no bad news
You can verbalize and vocalize
But just bring me the clues

But don't nobody bring me no bad news!

Maybe this is my punishment for being the good girl growing up, being the one Mom could always talk to about everything. Maybe it's time for me to be as open and honest with my mom as she always has been and continues to be with me, even when I want her to stop. Maybe I can create some sort of Mom shorthand or Morse Code that lets me know that all's clear and it's safe to talk to Mom. Or maybe I can finally provide Mom with a one-word data dump of my own: Stop!! Well, actually, Stop PLEASE!! I mean she is my mother, after all and I'm no fool!  I can't change her, but maybe I can get her to change the subject once in a while.

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