Mom moved away from her family in 1973, so the phone served as an important life line for her. I don't remember her speaking to acquaintances much, but I do remember tripping over the long, winding cord of the phone hanging between the wall and the floor as Mom spoke to her sisters. Those calls sometimes went on for ages, and I could probably have determined how long by the number of cigarettes Mom smoked during those conversations. If I could go back in time, I'd do just that, then I'd place the conversations into categories: a 1-smoke call, 2-smokes call, 3-smokes call, etc.
Later on, after Gina had gone off to college, Mom spent time speaking on the phone with her, too. Trying to dispense advice about the college dorms or money or classes or boyfriends. All the subjects moms try to help their daughters with. I remember calling Mom from college as well. She knew how I was doing just by my voice. I thought she possessed a pretty unique ability until I became a mom myself. And now, I do the same for my kids.
After I moved to Dayton in 2003, I experienced the same feelings Mom might have felt when she first moved, and I used that phone to reach back to my friends and family. It's what kept me sane at times, being able to reveal the sad state of affairs as I chased after 18-month-old twins and longed for familiar faces. I don't know how many conversations Mom and I had, but I'm sure that many of them fell into the 4- or 5-smoke category. That's how long we stayed on the phone.
And now, my mom can't speak on the phone. When she does, she muddles her way through the conversation with a laugh or an incomplete question. I've written about this before, but the lack of phone calls specifically from my mom feels odd, and it's something I've had to get used to. Of course, I can't bemoan my place right now: it's hard to imagine what Mom's going through and how frustrating it must be. It's too bad she can't use the phone. If she could, she might be fighting some of these uncomfortable feelings with a few phone calls back home.