My mom loves to acknowledge family members' birthdays and anniversaries by sending cards. This is a big deal to her and something that must be done every year. From as far back as I can remember, she would always have a calendar displayed with her neatly printed out names for each day a family member has a birthday or anniversary. At the start of every month she would glance at the calendar, make a shopping list of cards to purchase, and address them ... complete with postage ... in order to get them mailed out in time for the big day. This is important to her, even with the physical challenges she faces on a daily basis. She still has a calendar displayed in her room. She still makes trips with my sister to the store for birthday cards. And it's still important that they be delivered on or before the date of the event. And so I call.
Because of her declining eyesight, words and letters have a tendency to jump off the page and disappear. Because of her declining physical abilities, her handwriting is often no longer legible. Because of other issues, she sometimes forgets last names and forgets to sign her name inside resulting in a blank greeting card. But she is determined to mail these greeting cards. IT'S IMPORTANT TO HER.
And because it's important to her, I return her call knowing that the conversation is going to a frustrating one. She can't remember where she wrote down the address from last time. The last time...the "address phone call" as I like to refer to it...lasted way longer than it should have. I repeated myself over and over again, each time with a little more frustration in my voice, until she was finally satisfied that she had got it down correctly. And then she called the next day. And the next. The address didn't look right. Could I repeat it. And so I did. Because I knew it was important to her.
Fast forward to today. Same conversation, same address. Slowly, oh so slowly, I gave her the street number. She repeated it correctly. Slowly, I spelled the street name. Once again, she correctly repeated it. Slowly I continue with the apartment number, the city and state followed by the zip code. In my mind's eye, I could see her shakily pen the address onto her yellow legal pad and I am feeling confident that this time, she's got it down correctly and legibly. And just when I think it's all good, she dictates back to me the address, leaving off the street number and the apartment number. Here we go again. I feel like laughing because to an outsider I'm sure the conversation is quite comical. I feel like crying because it's not funny when it's your own mother. It's all I can do not to jump through the phone and write it for her. It's all I can do to keep my voice steady and calm as I repeat the numbers and spell out the street name. Again. It's all I can do to tell her not to worry about sending a card. That's not going to happen. Because I know it's important to her.
As frustrating as it is for me, more importantly I know how frustrating it is for her. I can hear it in her voice as she apologizes for her failing eyesight and her shaky handwriting. I can hear it in her voice as she asks me to repeat it again. I can hear disappointment in her voice as she acknowledges that the birthday card is going to be late. I know how much she hates that. And lastly, I can hear the disappointment in her voice as she is saddened by her situation. And then finally with a little lift in her voice she says "Maybe I'll call. Can you give me the phone number?" (I know where this is going. Don't even get me started with her phone call issues.) "Mom, how about if someone calls YOU?" She chuckles and says "I suppose that would be ok, too." Because it's important to her.
If you are still blessed with your beautiful mama's presence today, pick up the phone and call her. Call her on YOUR birthday and hers. It's important to her.