Four years ago today, I had the most memorable phone conversation I ever experienced with my mother. I had called her to wish her a happy Mother's Day. Our conversation was short, maybe ten minutes long. I did most of the talking. When she spoke, I couldn't understand her. I turned up the volume, I asked her to repeat herself, I wondered for a minute if my hearing was bad. When we hung up, I looked over at my husband and said, "I think something is wrong with Mom."
That was the day that the months, probably years, of subtle signs of her illness became glaring. Mom's speech was slurred and thick. I remember telling Randy that I thought she sounded drunk, and that was absurd, because she didn't really drink, and it was midday besides. As the day wore on, the dread sunk in, became fear. Before the week was out, I had emailed my dad to tell him I thought she might have ALS. She had a doctor's appointment coming up and I wanted to make sure someone told the doctor this. Because you know, there is no test for it. There's just elimination. They test you for cancer, for thyroid disease, heart disease, for obscure nerve illnesses. Mom's official diagnosis happened in September 2008. But the day that sticks in my heart is Mother's Day.
I can't help feeling that this day is always going to be haunted. But when Randy brought Annalise into our room this morning to wake me up, her dimples and giggle put things right. I won't pretend today wasn't bittersweet, because it was. My little girl, though, gave me a day to remember that balances that terrible moment.
All I can tell you today is to hug your mom. Call her. Listen to her voice. I promise it won't be a wasted moment. I used to think such pleas and reminders were terribly cliche - and maybe they are, but there are so many of us who can't call our mothers today.
Also, fittingly, May is ALS Awareness Month. Take a moment to find out what this disease is and what it has done to too many families.
Finally - Mom and me, in 1981.