I wish I were a better daughter, I thought to myself as I silenced the ringing of my cell-phone. I sat cross-legged on the bed, and only realized I was holding my breath when I finally exhaled as voicemail picked up the call.
Before, the reason for not answering had been the inconsistency of what would be on the other end. Sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes, pleading, but always my mother was drunk when she called me. If she wasn’t drunk it would only be from being in rehab. However, this scenario dates a few years back; enough close calls and losing literally everything was able to encourage getting sober, but still I let the phone ring.
“Missed Call From Mom” popped up, displayed in a text bubble on my phone screen. Still, I waited unmoving as if somehow the phone would give me away, alert my mother that I, in fact, am here and able to answer. I knew she was leaving a voicemail, and I was relieved when the phone alerted me that the call was done and the voicemail was left.
I have seen her only once in the three since she got sober; on a cold early January morning we met at the mall to get lunch and walk around. I insisted on meeting her there, rather than picking her up at the women’s shelter only about ten minutes out of my way, a mere twenty from my father’s house where I was spending the month-long Christmas break.
When she stepped off the bus at the mall she looked embarrassed and small, a shadow of the woman I had known five years ago in old, too-baggy, clothes. Looking at the ground she apologized that she couldn’t afford to buy me lunch, but handed me a scarf wrapped in brightly colored paper that she had bought me as a belated Christmas present.
Still sitting in my bed, I picked up my phone and unlocked it, pulling up the voicemail screen. There it was, the voicemail from my mother, but I didn’t want to listen to it. Her messages were always the same lately: reminding me of her sobriety and trying to get back into my life. The latter part I have heavily resisted, despite her best efforts at guilting me into acting on the contrary. Without listening to the voicemail, I set my phone back down on my bed and focused on my homework.
About a week later I remembered that I still hadn’t called her back. Like often happens to me, the realization popped into my head as i shuffled through the warmly colored fall leaves hurrying home from a late ending class. As dusk was beginning to fall, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and called my mother back.
As the phone rang and I walked through the leaves, I thought about what I would tell her. First of course I would apologize for missing her call, brushing it off on school and busyness. Then I would abruptly tell her about the poster I made in my design class that consists of inspirational quotes arranged in colorful blocks. Though it came as an afterthought, I will tell her I made it with her in mind and send it to her in the mail.
An automated voicemail picks up and I am more than a little relived at the sound of the robotic tin voice. When the beep sounds, I cheerily and sweetly run through a condensed version of what I had planned to say. Making a dumb remark about phone tag, I say I hope to hear from her soon and end the call.
The message is out of my mind before I finish the short walk back to my house, and stayed away until a week later when I got the grade for my poster project back. Walking home from class that night, three weeks after her first call, I called her again but again got voicemail.
I wish I were a better daughter I thought as I placed the phone back in my pocket and continued my walk home from class.
This post was written in response to a WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge. This week, the challenged asked participants to finish the sentence “I wish I were…”. I wish I were a better daughter to my mother, what do you wish?