Our mom died almost eight years ago and during her dementia decline, a nightly phone call at 6pm was a touchpoint, even if we’d talked earlier in the day – sometimes multiple calls and/or visits. Mom didn’t remember and often she wasn’t sure who I was when she called, but like clockwork at 6pm, the phone would ring, and it would be mom/Sue.
After mom passed, my sweet, developmentally disabled sister, Lisa, continued the tradition. Amongst her many quirks, borne from years of ritual and routine with our mom, Lisa likes reminding me that she’s the ‘big sis’ and she must’ve felt mom’s nightly phone calls to me were now her responsibility. It’s endearing and lovely – Lisa’s need to reach out to ‘check in’. She provides a recap of her day (with a special emphasis on meals and treats) and whispers the latest gossip from her roommate/friends in her group home. But every phone call starts the same way a call from mom would begin:
“Oh, hi Vicki. It’s me – I’m just checking in to see how your day was today.” At which time I say “fine” or “great” followed by “Thank you so much for calling, Lisa!”
The rest of our five-to-ten-minute chat is a fun ride through Lisa’s punch list du jour – and last night, her call was especially enjoyable. I’ve often thought I should record each…but they’re so similar, each of these nightly calls, why would I? Last night I remembered why. Lisa keeps me on my toes with zingers – fun bits of info delivered with comedic timing that is hers….hers alone. And I love it. Here’s what I mean:
When I asked, “How was your day?” last night, Lisa shared this:
“Well, it was great until Barb dropped a box on me. I didn’t need stitches or anything, the box was empty so you don’t need to worry but still she made me mad, and staff had to separate us. But we had cookies right after. Donna from the church stopped by with chocolate chip cookies – the kind like you make with the M&M’s but hers were burnt on the edges but we ate them and I remembered to say thank you. Donna’s nice and said she liked my new birthday shoes – you know – the new blue ones you gave me. She wants to know where you got them from because she wants a pair. And for dinner we had pork chops with noodles but Janey didn’t have any applesauce so can you believe it? We didn’t have our Peter Brady ‘pork chops and applesauce’ dinner like we always do, but Janey did the voice for us anyhow. I talked to my friend Jen in Indiana. She says to tell you hello and she thought you should know there are a lot more cows in Indiana than Illinois. I told her you know everything, try again. Did you watch “Survivor” last night? I can’t believe that one lady thinks she has an idol – she took the wrong thing from that birdcage – but I like her anyhow because she’s in the purple tribe. Did you have dinner yet? What are you having? I still miss Sadie but having her pillow makes me happy. I say hi to her every morning and I wore my favorite Sadie sweatshirt yesterday. All of the ladies here say hi and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Love you, Vicki!”
Peppered throughout her lively monologue…breathless as it is…Lisa pauses, just long enough to catch her breath and to check if I’m still on the other end. Although I don’t say much, I’ve learned I need to add those almost-audibles to keep her going…the “oh”….the “wow”…. the “mmm” here and there.
Whenever we have friends or other family over in the evening and the mantel clock chimes 6pm, I’m ready…in position…for Lisa’s call. She thinks she’s continuing a tradition of checking on me, same as mom, and despite the ‘Groundhog Day’ aspects, I wouldn’t trade the 6pm fun for anything. Just don’t call around the same time, okay? Lisa has dibs.
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