She died on a Thursday in January. January 27, 2005, to be exact. Almost 6 years now. Funny, it doesn’t seem that long ago. I still miss her terribly. They say you never really get over the death of a loved one, you just learn to live with it. My dad has been dead for about 15 years, but it seems like a lifetime ago, the memory of him is so distant. I guess it’s because we were never really that close. But my mom and I were very close. I always confided in her, and felt I could tell her anything. So her absence still hurts.
After my dad died, and my mom was living alone, she came up with a way to let me know she was alright, since she had a bad heart. She would send me a page each morning. She started out paging the last four digits of her phone number. But she soon changed that to just a “1.” “I’m just letting you know I woke up,” she said, “I don’t want you to think you have to call me.” Of course I always would. I would get the page around the time I got to work, so before doing anything else, I would give her a call. I would call her in the evening, too, to see how her day had been.
Over the years, the “1” code had evolved into a random series of 1’s and 0’s. I’m not sure why she had added the zeroes. When you look at a telephone, there is a good deal of numerical real estate between the zero and the one. And it’s not like my mom was conversant in binary code.
She had told me earlier that week, Tuesday, I think it was, that she had recently gotten a “visitation” from dad. It was the middle of the night, and she heard footsteps. She got up to investigate, and saw my dad sitting at the dining table, where he had always sat, reading the newspaper. “It must’ve been a dream, of course,” she admitted. “But it seemed so real.” When I asked if he had said anything, she said no. But I sensed she was holding something back from me.
When my father-in-law found her, she was slumped over the dining table, in the spot where she had seen my dad. She had been going through her mail, and the standalone burner she used to boil water for coffee was still on and had melted the teapot.
Since her death, I’ve thought a lot about her dream, visitation, whatever it was. It’s the one little space in my mind that keeps me from being 100% certain there is nothing beyond this life. My one little ray of hope.
After I had finally gotten back to work, I realized I still had the last two pages she had sent me. For weeks I would look at those pages every morning, knowing I would never get them again. They were somehow a comfort to me, a tether to my dead mother.
Finally, one day the worst happened. My pager went dead. The pages from her were gone. It was almost like losing her again. I know it seems silly, but that was what it felt like.
The title of this blog is not completely accurate, of course. She was still alive when she sent me those pages. There are still some days when I will look at my pager, hoping to see those 1’s and 0’s. Of course, I know it’s not going to happen. So here’s some to you, Mom and Dad: 01001001 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101