“BYE, MOM. TALK TO YOU next week.” I hung up the phone, unable to ignore the drumbeat of worry that had been building during our conversation. It was our Sunday call when we touched base every week.
What was it that had me so concerned about Mom? Her hip? The pain was pretty intense, bone grinding on bone. She’d had a procedure a couple years back, to no avail. But she was her usual uncomplaining self. “The doctor gave me something that I can take before I go to bed,” she’d said. “It seems to help.” No more strolls up and down the block in her walker, though.
Maybe it was how much sleep she seemed to need lately. Up in the morning to do the L.A. Times crossword puzzle, then back down for a nap. Up for lunch and an attack on the crossword in the Pasadena Star-News, then another nap. Dinner and the book that she was reading for her book group. Then bed. “I sleep fine,” she insisted.
The worst thing was being 3,000 miles away. Mom still lived in the Pasadena area, where she’d been born and raised and where my siblings and I had grown up. I envied their proximity to Mom. My older sister, Gioia, lived two miles away and always had Mom over for Sunday dinner. My other sibs, Howard and Diane, lived 45 minutes away, but they drove up frequently. Diane took Mom to doctors’ appointments, as did Howard’s wife, Julie; Howard helped out with her taxes. I felt guilty I couldn’t do more.
My siblings could see through her “I’m doing fine” disclaimers. They could see how thin Mom had grown. “How much did the doctor say you weighed?” I’d asked. “Ninety…ninety-one…” she said. Ninety-one. The same as her age. Gioia bought her groceries every week, all those bottles of Ensure. But Mom needed to put on some weight. She could usually be lured into a scoop or two of ice cream, not to mention some See’s Candies… What else was she eating?
“Don’t you have eggs for breakfast anymore? And bacon?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” she said.
Sometimes. How often was that?
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