It has been eight months since I’ve seen my mother. I miss her tremendously, but I do not think at this point it is safe to travel 3,000 miles by plane and rental car.
So I continue what I have been doing and make my morning phone call to my mother while I walk the dog.
A few years ago, when my dad was alive, we had plenty to talk about—doctor’s appointments, visiting nurse instructions, questions about his Parkinson’s and much more.
Up until the pandemic, we could talk about my mother’s daily activities, including time spent with her new great-grandbaby, excursions to the flower shop and visits with my sister and her children.
Now there is little to talk about. My mother’s life has become very quiet.
Phone calls are my only way to stay in touch, and they provide a salve to my heartache from not being able to see her in person. I have grown creative in our conversations, starting most of them with “Remember when . . .”
For example, recently a friend sent me pictures of a vacation house she plans to rent. The photo of the living room jumped out at me. It featured an aqua couch with flecks of metallic silver. Also in the photo was a coffee table that held a display of glass grapes.
I sent the picture of that living room to my mother, and we reminisced for a good long time.
My mother had bought an almost identical couch right before she and my father married and moved to Pennsylvania.
The couch came with them when they bought their first house in New Hampshire when I was 2. As a testament to the way furniture used to be made, my mother kept that couch as she had bought it until I was almost 10 and then had a slipcover made and used it for several more years.
Sitting on that couch was such an integral part of my growing up—watching “Lassie” with my father and snuggling with my parents as we watched “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The glass grapes were another surprise blast from the past.
My mother and father were both highly creative. My father practiced woodworking. His most-used creation was a telephone desk.
My mother went through a series of crafts that she sold to friends. There were the wooden candlesticks she made from pieces of wood purchased at an old mill, the bread baskets that were preserved with acrylic spray to be used as kitchen table centerpieces, and the purple- or gold-toned glass that was poured into a round mold to make grapes, which were later secured with wires to a piece of driftwood to look like a bunch.
Our conversation went on for an hour, reminiscing about those things, all inspired by a photo of a living room in a rental house.
On the topic of reminiscing, Kerrie, one of our amazing volunteers, shared this story with me last week:
“I was recently baking some Nut Fudgies, a delicious recipe of my mother’s which is etched into a wooden cutting board in her handwriting—a gift from my sister that I keep on display on my counter.
“I was making them to send to Mom as part of a care package. While reading the recipe, I realized that it called for two bittersweet baking squares.
“Well, today’s package of Baker’s brand baking squares is different from those she purchased when she used to make this recipe. Today they are ¼-ounce squares. I couldn’t remember how many ounces were in the older version.
“This was information that was easily Google-able, but I decided instead to call my mother to discuss it and seek her advice. We also had a conversation about just how much a ‘dash’ of salt should be.
“At age 91 and still possessing most of her mental faculties, she loved being consulted, and it brought back memories for both of us about how her kitchen smelled when she used to bake them for our family.
“‘Oh, how I wish I could be there with you to help you in person, but this is the next best thing!’ she said. It made us both smile,” Kerrie said.
There can be so many positive feelings gained from sharing pleasant memories, offering a bright spot in this overwhelming time.
If you are looking to boost your mood and decrease your stress, consider reminiscing with a loved one.