My car had a mind of its own as it veered off a newly-paved stretch of Miramar Parkway just west of S.R. 441. Before I knew it, the ditch and I had become one. I reached for my cell phone and suddenly had a mental picture of it sitting peacefully on the kitchen counter where I had left it.
This incident was not reported on any of the local news stations. The police never arrived to document the accident report. And despite the fact that my just-washed SUV now looked like the last-place finisher in a race through quicksand, there was not a scratch on my 5-foot, 2-inch frame.
That’s because none of this ever happened – except in my mom’s mind.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I love my mom about 61,158. But I’ll be the first to admit that when God created the Nervous Nellie prototype, She used my mom as the model. (Yes, God is a She, but that’s the subject of another article.)
In addition to being blessed with a mother whom I adore, I also have the misfortunate fortune of being an only child. And when combined with Nervous Nellie for a mother, the result can be lethal. I have died and come back to life so many times I ‘m the envy of every cat in South Florida.
My secret to staying alive is to call my mom at least two, sometimes more, times a day just to check in — to let her know the building in which I work hasn’t been the target of a terrorist attack, a band of gypsies hasn’t hijacked me at a red light on Pines Boulevard and a pack of wild dogs hasn’t mauled me to smithereens during my bike ride. (I did run over a dead Python during one of those recent bike rides, but we won’t tell my mom about that, OK?)
My first call to her is at exactly 7 a.m. Usually I am at work by that time, but on the off chance that I get stuck in traffic, at 7 a.m. mom gets a call from the car, then another one when I’m at my desk. And if I’m traveling, it doesn’t matter if I’m in Brooklyn or Bangladesh, a daily call is a necessity.
I used to think this was totally logical behavior. Until I learned that there are people in the world — people like the one with whom I share my life and home, for example – who go months without even thinking of picking up a phone and calling their parents.
On the Crazier-Than-Shit Food Chain, these people think my habit of calling mom so many times a day is on par with hugging a Capuchin monkey while running naked through the Four Seasons at the height of lunch hour.
Which brings me back to the ditch into which I drove earlier today — or the plane crash I survive every time I fly. There’s nothing logical about the need to call my mom every time these things don’t happen. In fact, if they do happen, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to get to a phone to call and tell her about it.
Sometimes, however, even when my phone is readily available, I do the unthinkable. I forget to call. Or worse, mom calls me and I don’t answer because of some ridiculous reason like I didn’t hear the phone ringing.
When I finally do pick up the phone to call, I have at least 412 messages waiting for me … each with a higher octave of panic … each with a corresponding octave of guilt.
And I know how that first return call to her will begin.
“Where were you? Did you forget you have a mother?” she will ask in her best “One day I’ll be dead and you’ll regret not having called me” tone of voice.
And so it goes, and has gone, for over a half century of my life. I’ve learned to live with it. I’ve learned to accept it as part of being blessed with a mother who loves me more than she loves life itself. But I also vowed that I would never, ever, not in a million years put the pressure of an expected phone call on anyone who I love.
Not even last night as I waited for mom to call me to say that she and dad were home from their visit to our relatives in Hialeah. Nope, not even though they were about 15 minutes past the time she said they’d be home. Not even though I had called her three times — OK, it’s more like 15 — and left messages asking if everything was OK.
When she finally called, I was as calm as calm could be.
“Where have you been? I was calling you,” I asked in my best “What if I was calling to tell you I had fallen into a ditch” tone of voice. “Why didn’t you answer?”
“We stopped at Publix on the way home to buy milk. My phone was at the bottom of my purse and I couldn’t hear it ringing,” she replied, as if that was an acceptable explanation.
“Really, mom?” I replied.
And before I could stop it, the voice inside my heart blurted out …
“Did you forget you have a daughter?”