Friday, May 10, 2013

Sentences and Syllables

I have five new voicemails from my mother. My not-so-smart phone alerts me to this fact with blinking urgency every time I turn it on.

So I leave it off.

My mother left me those messages four weeks before she died, and only a few days before her hands grew too tired to grasp the phone. The same fingers that had once skillfully skated across piano keyboards like an Olympic ice dancer were now too weak to press the giant, illuminated key I had pre-programmed to connect her to her children.

Five new voicemails. Sentences and syllables uttered just for me … mere days before her words dissolved into fragile threads too thin to travel the distance between her lips and the receiver. A few days later her words would disappear altogether. I was with her by then and her eyes told me everything I didn’t want to know.

I had kept my phone with me at all times, resting it on the corner of my desk or on the console in my car. I charged it on my nightstand while I slept and when I woke up, I tucked it in my pocket, purse, or the thick wool socks I perpetually wore to stamp out the New England cold. Still I managed to miss some of her calls. When that happened, I'd call her back immediately, not delaying to play the messages first. More than three months later, the recordings still lie dormant, quietly signaling me like the flash of a firefly on a summer evening.

I know my mother’s voice like I know the color red. It’s bright behind my retinas, and the dominate primary determining the shades in my spectrum. I want to hear my mother speak my name again the same way I want to breathe the sweet spring air after a stagnant, gray winter. But my throat seizes at the thought.

This Sunday would be a good time to listen. Mother’s Day. It seems so logical, beautiful even. But I'm not sure. The finality would be brutal; and finality is a heavily weighted concept I’m still trying to grasp, my own fingers too tired to wrap around its bulk and press its damned pre-programmed key.