I wanted to call my mother so many times this week. If landlines figured in my life, I might have lifted a receiver and dialed the number which I’ll never forget: Colfax 1 – 2554.
I need some advice. This is so hard.
I drag myself around some days, my joints and muscles resisting any semblance of function. But worse: My heart weighs so heavy in my chest.
I miss you, Mom. You left so soon!
My mother died more than half my life ago. I held her hand as she slipped into her last coma three days before she went home. I had to go back to Kansas City for a day or so, and when I returned, she didn’t know me. She wailed in fear and pain. I felt helpless.
Days, weeks, months, years later — I felt that way again, but for myself, for my siblings, for our children. She had a fierce and feisty wisdom which at times we desperately need to navigate our lives.
She took stands and planted trees. She visited the graves of other people’s infants. She went braless before that became a fashion. She picketed the convent because the nuns scolded my long-haired brothers for being freaks. She liked James Taylor and the Grateful Dead. She taught me loyalty, even beyond reason.
I think my mother would like the place where I now live. She’d stand on the docks and gaze at the mountain with as much reverence as I feel. She would sweep the leaves from my porch and the cobwebs from my windowsills. Willie Nelson or Dvorak would waft from my little Bluetooth speaker while she made more efficient use of the storage spaces below the appliances. She’d donate my extra suitcases and the plastic bins that I’ve squirreled away, reasoning that if I ever move, I can get a few more. She’d organize the neighbors for holiday dinners and make dolls for their children.
I crave her wisdom more than ever. I listen to my son, my friends, the people who call me for advice. I don’t know what to say. I study my writing and wonder if I can ever hammer it into a book. Each step of the way, I strain to pull my mother’s voice from ancient memories. She died before the dawn of this century’s full panoply of modernity, but her basic values would translate so well to the complex problems which confront me.
When my mother died, I had no clear direction in my life. Without her guidance, i stumbled. I staggered. I fell. Alice’s rabbit hole opened and swallowed me. Now I’m in the open air, and looking for Lucy. The operator tells me that the number which I’ve dialed is out of service. I hold the phone close to my ear and whisper, Mama, where are you? Come back! I strain to hear an answer in the echoes of my aching heart.
It’s the fourth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
My mother Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley (“Lucy”) gave excellent advice for free. She liked the “Peanuts” cartoon character who bore the same name as she. She often read “The Gospel According to Peanuts”, and described her advice to us as “The Gospel According to Lucy”.
My cousin Theresa sang the spiritual “Goin’ Home” at my mother’s funeral. Here’s a haunting version.