On Friday night, at 11:35pm, the phone rang for the third time in 30 minutes. Everyone else in the house was asleep (or trying to sleep anyway).
The first two times were wrong numbers. On the second call, I said to the guy, “I am sorry to tell you, but you wrote it down wrong or the woman just gave you the wrong number.” I felt bad for him and angry at Denise — the woman he was calling.
The third time, I was steamed at the spurned would-be lover. And I answered the phone with a serious attitude.
“Hello!!” I answered gruffly and angrily.
“[Blogger], it’s Dad.”
Uh oh. This was late for Dad and there was a worried sound in his voice.
“I don’t know where Mom is. She isn’t home yet and I have been waiting for her. And I don’t know how to reach her.“
My heart leapt into my throat. I knew I could not tell him the truth in stark terms — that Mom is dead almost 11 years, so I opted for: “Um, Dad, Mom isn’t around anymore.”
SIDEBAR: If I were a member of my grandparents’ generation, I would clear my throat (“achem”) and say in a thick East European accent: “Vhat-vhat? [Mom] is dead. Years ago. Go to sleep alrrrready. Staying up won’t bring her back.” So much for the warm and fuzzies.
“I don’t understand!” Dad continued. “No one told me! What kype [“type” and “kind” mashed together — a Dad signature mashable] of an operation are we running around here?“
Ok, so no gentle reminder of Mom’s death was going to snap him back into today’s reality. I swallowed hard and close my eyes. The last thing Dad needed at 11:40pm was to relive Mom’s death.
“Dad, I meant that Mom isn’t around at home tonight. Mom and [SOB] are having a mother-daughter sleep-over. They spent the day together and now Mom is staying over. But don’t call because [SOB] has to get up early for work and they are already asleep, ok?”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me? I have been worried for hours!“
“Dad, I am sure that you were told. It is that sometimes, people forget. And maybe you did, too, at least this time.”
I heard the sound of Dad’s displeasure. A little muttering that he does when he is unhappy or feels he has to worry needlessly.
“This is good news to me.“
Phew. That meant he was willing to accept this explanation. Because this explanation preserved Mom’s existence.
“Everyone will call you in the morning, Dad. I promise everything is ok. Will you go to sleep now?”
“I wish someone would let me know what is going on around here.“
“Daddy, I know. Please go to sleep and you will see everyone tomorrow. Good night. I love you.”
“I love you, too, darling. But we have to change things around here so I am included in the plans.“
“You are so right, Dad. Good night.”
“Good night, darling.“
Next call is to SOB who was asleep. I dialed, she answered, and I cut to the important stuff: “Dad called me looking for Mom. I told him that she was sleeping over at your house but you had all gone to bed already. Just in case he calls. Go back to sleep.”
SIDEBAR: I am closer to my grandparents’ generation than I thought.
This episode is not uncommon for older people at night or in the early morning, after they wake up. On Saturday morning, he was confused but in a different way. By Saturday lunch, he was generally ok. Lunch today (Sunday), SOB reported that, with gentle prodding, he was able to remember that Mom died. But he repeated something he always says: Mom surrounds him in the apartment and he is happy there [a true love story]. And he is comforted and reassured by talking to his kids.
So, he needs to remain shrouded in his happy memories, in that apartment, until he is reunited with Mom. And his children must keep him grounded in the present. Or lie to him, if necessary, until we can be face-to-face until we can gently guide him back.
Next week: Mom goes on a week-long synagogue retreat for the Sisterhood organization. And she is rooming with Judy Zimmerman, our former rabbi’s wife. [Just like she used to.] Are you listening, SOB and BOB?