Do we ever stop missing our folks?
By Anthony Buccino
When Mom was on the phone with Grandma
Grandma called Mom every night at 6:15. Every single weekday this went on for years and years, from before I was born, I suppose, until Grandma finally moved in with us.
“There’s the warden checking in,” Dad joked when the phone rang at 6:15. And sure enough, it was always Grandma.
Each evening she and Mom talked about whatever the day had held, what long-distant relative they might have heard from, or what the grandkids were up to. On and on, they talked, every night, and they never ran out of things to say.
When Mom was on the phone with Grandma was a good time to ask for stuff she would usually tell me no to if she weren’t distracted. It turned out that from 6:15 to 6:30 was always a good time to ask, “Can I have a pony?” or “Can I go bike riding out of the neighborhood?” or “Can I have a puppy?”
Okay, so it didn’t always work. I had to wait until my sister’s high school graduation party when there were hundreds of people around distracting her to actually get Mom to say yes to a puppy. Otherwise, when she was talking to Grandma was the best time to ask for something that would otherwise be a certain no.
As soon as she picked up the receiver, I began asking, “Who is it? That for me?”
“Who do you think it is calling at a quarter after six? The Man in the Moon? . . . Hi, Ma. Just give me five minutes peace and quiet. No, not you, Ma.”
Then after she hung up, she tracked me down wherever I was and asked what I wanted. Nothing, was usually all I could say. But after a night of yelping. I got to keep the puppy, for 14 more years.
A few times Mom would stop on her way to the phone, and say aloud, “I was going to call Grandma and tell her something,” but she realized Gram had died years ago. How could she have thought that after so long? What was Mom thinking? But there was nothing to say to Mom. Gram was still alive in her thoughts so many years later.
When Mom was living alone, I visited every night for a few months and put some medicinal goop and glop in her eye. After the late-night application, she’d sit there in her PJs and housecoat and we’d chat or watch TV for awhile. No matter how many times I tried to explain about how come Sam Beckett looked in the mirror and saw a woman or some other guy’s face, I don’t think she understood.
“He went into this time machine, sort of, and he takes over people’s bodies and only you and me can see him, but the people in the show only see the person he’s supposed to be. Except for his friend Al. But Al is just a hologram, so nobody but Sam can see him. Anyway, Sam takes over people’s lives and is supposed to change their destiny. And, well, it’s just pretend, Ma, that’s all.”
She nodded, then tucked in her housecoat. We didn’t talk about much, mostly just kept company for a while. “Don’t let me miss my numbers. How come when I tune in early they are late and when I tune in a few minutes late, I missed them?”
Then it was home to walk the dog and check on the family.
Now, years since she’s gone, I check on my family and walk the dog underneath a starry night. In the silvery sparkles that balance the night’s vast darkness, I wonder of holograms and traveling through time to make things right but find no more answers than before. And I think of something I want to tell Mom.
First published July 17, 1997, by Worrall Community Newspapers.
Adapted from Rambling Round - Inside and Outside at the Same Time
Essays, photography, military history, more
New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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