IN EVERYTHING I WRITE, truth rests. In creative nonfiction, more than any other genre, truth writes the story. In poetry and fiction, life experiences, observations and emotions weave into poems and stories. Not necessarily the full truth, but based on reality. The adage “write what you know” rings true for me.
In 2017, I wrote a short story, “The Weekly Phone Call,” and entered it in the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc annual competition. That work of creative nonfiction along with two poems, two fictional short stories and another piece of creative nonfiction were chosen for publication in Fine Lines, The Talking Stick Volume 26. It marked my most successful year with TS, an annual anthology featuring work by Minnesota writers or those with a connection to Minnesota.
The book title, Fine Lines fits my selected entry, a story about the Sunday evening phone calls I made to my mom. Every. Week. I looked forward to them, as did Mom. My short story is one of raw emotions, of grief and pain. And today, days before Mother’s Day, seems an appropriate time to share this piece of my writing.
I hope it sparks an understanding that simple connections linking us to those we love are to be valued. When Mom could no longer hold or talk on a phone in the years before her January 2022 death, I felt a deep loss. I missed her voice. I missed her stories. I missed sharing my life with her. And today, I miss her, as I try to recall her voice, the words she spoke, yet always remembering the love we shared.
The Weekly Phone Call
It’s 6:30 p.m. on Sunday when I punch the green phone icon.
“Hello, Arlene speaking,” she answers, the indiscernible dialogue of a television blaring in the background.
“Hi, this is Audrey,” I say, then wait while she turns off her TV. “How are you doing?”
Her answer never deviates. She is tired and blames the weather. Already sadness threads through my thoughts. Inside the sheltered walls of a care center, she can’t feel the bite of a winter prairie wind, the drench of rainfall, the smothering humidity of a July afternoon. She feels only artificial heat and cold while sequestered in her over-sized dorm style room.
My mind drifts as Mom laments an in-house obsession with BINGO, recounts an escape attempt by a friend—big and exciting news—and complains of failed jets in the whirlpool tub. I listen, insert appropriate responses, and await the usual repetition of information.
When she repeats herself, I say nothing. There is no point. My love prevails in silence. But inside, my anger rises at her declining memory. I want the mom who never forgot a birthday, who remembered what she ate for lunch, who knew names. I miss her undeniably kind and positive spirit. I am grieving.
But I tell her none of this. Instead, I end our conversation with “I love you” and a promise to call her next Sunday, at 6:30 p.m.
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Original 2017 publication credit: Fine Lines, The Talking Stick Volume 26
so kind and beautiful. what a memory and compassionate ending
Thank you, dear Beth. Compassion was the fitting response.
Many daughters, I’m sure, go through the same with their dear moms. I’m just thankful I had her on this earth for nearly 90 years. Mom experienced many major medical crises through the years when we nearly lost her. Multiple times.
It is a tough time of you for so many of us. Hugs.
Yes, for sure. This is an all-around difficult weekend on many levels, well beyond missing Mom.
So much love. So beautiful! If only all of us are so blessed.
I agree. If only all of us could experience such love. I was blessed.
You are a kind, loving daughter and I’m quite sure a kind, loving mother as well. Happy Mother’s Day this weekend, Audrey. Thank you for sharing this memory with us. I miss my mom, too.
So sweet of you, Kathleen. Enjoy your Mother’s Day. Mine will be quiet. I’m missing Caleb’s graduation from Purdue on Sunday evening due to my vestibular neuronitis and not being well enough to travel that far and be among the masses. Yes, I’m pretty sad.
Here’s to better times ahead. xoxo
Yes, indeed! 🙂
Your short story is so realistic…thanks for sharing.
I’m sorry you have to miss Caleb’s graduation.
Mother’s Day is not all rosy for everyone…I’ll miss not seeing my sons.
My story is factual, something I think many can relate to, although details differ.
You’re right on Mother’s Day not being rosy for all. When we can’t be with our children, it’s especially hard. I know you understand.