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Carol Perkins: Missing Mother

"My mother kept tabs on me growing up and now it is my turn to keep tabs on her"
Next previous Carol Perkins column: The New Washing Machine

By Carol Perkins

The door was unlocked with the key left in the lock from the inside. Guy edged his way from room to room before making the call.

"She isn't here, but the door is open and the key in the lock."

"Have you looked around?" I asked, visualizing her body, lifeless on the basement floor.


"I looked everywhere."

"The basement?"

"Everywhere. Unless she's hiding, she's not here."

That was a relief...

"No one is home next door either," he said of my uncle who lives beside her. "Maybe something is going on in the family."

That lit my imagination, so I called another uncle who had not felt well lately. No answer at his house. I had figured it out. One uncle was in the emergency room and my mom and the brother who lived next door had followed the ambulance. I didn't call the other two uncles. I waited.

Fortunately, during the wait, I slipped into a quiet little nap, which lasted no more than ten minutes until the phone roused me with a cheerful voice on the other line. "I've just gotten home. I've been gone all day!" What a relief to hear her voice.

"Where have you been?" I sounded like the parent.

"Didn't I tell you that Sarah Beth and I were spending the day together?" No, she had not told me. Don't mothers know to tell their kids where they are going?

This event is so typical of what happens when I can't find my mother. The truth is that before knowing what actually happened, I invented my own story. It did cross my mind that maybe my niece had come over, but my mother had been missing for five hours. A young person seldom spends that much time with a grandmother. I didn't rush to the hospital or call the emergency room, which I thought of doing.

"The next time I'll leave a note," she said. I might need to buy her a cell phone.

Keeping tabs on each other is as close as the cell phone and often so close that if you wanted to slip away and have your nails done without interruption, you would need to leave the phone in the car. In my circle of friends, most of them are talking, talking, talking constantly. They don't necessarily do the calling, but their phones ring and ring and ring. I can identify the caller by their ringtone. I feel like a third wheel.

Many might think I am unusual in the fact that I don't talk to my children daily, but I don't. They are busy, and if they need me or I need them, we know how to make instant contact. Does that mean that I love them less than those who talk to theirs hourly? That would be absurd.

When Guy is working away from home, he calls me nightly to tell me where he is staying, but if he called twice a day just to chat, I would think I had a dreaded disease about which he had been told and I had not

However, if I can't reach someone in an ample length of time and am not accustomed to her being gone without my being informed, I have a right to conjure up a nightmare. My mother kept tabs on me growing up and now it is my turn to keep tabs on her. I have come home from a concert and driven by the house to make sure things look right. I have called the uncle next door to look at the window to see if her door was open because that is a sign of the morning. I know the signs of life inside.

"You be sure to leave me a note the next time," I insisted. "You could have fallen last night, laid in a pool of blood, and have been smelling by morning." (I've heard that a time or two!)

I don't like the feeling that something is amiss through the lines of an unanswered phone when the person I'm waiting to hear on the other end is my mother.
(email Carol at cperkins@scrtc.com. Her book, Let's Talk About, is available at Ivy Bookstore, 402 Rogers RD, Glasgow, KY)


This story was posted on 2010-06-13 05:58:46
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