I Can’t Call My Mom

My Mother died of Stage IV pancreatic cancer at 8:49 p.m. on January 26, 2023, less than three months after her diagnosis.

For the first 10 weeks after learning the news she felt better than she had in years. Then 10 days before she died all of a sudden the cancer made itself known, and she started on the morphine and it was never enough. I gave her a double dose when the 0.25 milligrams wasn’t helping, and the hospice nurse called the social worker on me, fearing perhaps that I was trying to kill her. No, the cancer was killing her. I was trying to stop the pain.

I guess it’s good that it happened so swiftly. But there wasn’t time for me to adjust. When she first got the diagnosis she was doing so well that it seemed as if we’d have a long time to be together still, and plenty of time for final words. By the time I flew home for her last few days, the medicine meant she was either in too much pain for conversation, her mind too muddled to think clearly, or asleep.

It seems like every day something happens and I think, “I’ll call Mom.” To brag about her granddaughter’s grad school grads. To share with her grandson’s photo standing beside the fourth grade class he teaches. To ask which of the three chicken spaghetti recipes she gave me is the one she likes the best. To find out what it was like, to be home with me all day when I was three and she had left her full-time job to stay at home when no babysitting options seemed to work. I go to pick up the phone and then it hits me that she won’t be on the other end of the line. My Dad answers the phone now, and wants to talk. Which is weird, because he’s always been anxious to get off the phone — “Here’s your Mom,” he’d say as quickly as he could, passing the call to her. Now the silence makes him anxious to talk, instead of to hand off the phone. But he doesn’t know anything about the chicken spaghetti, or how it was with me and Mom, since he was at work all day. I still brag to him about the grandkids, but it isn’t the same.

I wish I could call my Mom.

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