“We have your mother here,” the woman on the other end of the phone said. “She’s in serious condition.”
She paused. I said nothing.
“She asked me to call you,” the woman paused again.
“Okay,” I said. I knew I wasn’t reacting the way she expected me to, with surprise and concern and promises to be there this afternoon.
She didn’t know my mother very well.
“She told me that someone in her parish would be driving her home when she’s ready to go,” she paused again, “since nobody in her family would be available to help her.”
The silence hung between us. Judgement on me, the daughter, who obviously doesn’t care.
The dog started barking at the air conditioning repair man coming up the basement stairs and I grabbed a pen to take down my mother’s room number.
“I’ll give her a call,” I said.
“Well, I hope so,” she said.
“Have you even looked at my mother’s file?” I asked.
She was quiet on the other end.
I sighed and resisted the urge to spill the whole story. Frankly, I didn’t have two hours and the woman on the other end probably didn’t either. I made a mental note, again, don’t judge people. We rarely have the whole story, even when we think we do.
“Listen,” I said, “I really appreciate your phone call. Thank you for letting me know what’s going on.”
She curtly said goodbye and I hung up the phone, then redialed the hospital’s phone number.
And she answered. It’s been so long since she’s answered my calls, I had to swallow a few times to get any words out at all.
I talked with my mother, who was predictably more stable after being hospitalized, and find myself longing to see her again. I think I’m ready to go without any expectation of anything…just to go and be with her for a few hours. I need to do that. Not for her, necessarily, but for me.
I’ll bring this up with her at my next opportunity, which could be awhile. She’s not in the hospital anymore and isn’t answering her cell phone or returning messages. It could be her phone is dead and she has no charger. She might be out of minutes. Or she might be picking up where she left off…avoiding me completely and refusing to even tell me where she lives.
Maybe I’ll give that nurse a call back. Let her know that I’m trying to reach my mother and see if she knows where she’s living. I’m in the mood for a two hour conversation today, and I’d love to hear her thoughts on how to help the mentally ill patient who chooses to isolate herself from her family. The ones who are too sick to reach out for the help they need, but not sick enough to be forced into any kind of treatment beyond a few days in a state hospital bed.
I’d love to get her advice on how to help. Because on this end of the phone, it’s freaking complicated.