What Midlife Women Should Remember to Ask Their Mothers

I understand now, all these years later, that in our phone calls she needed me to think that everything was all right with her. She never spoke about her loneliness, the hours she spent looking out her front window watching cars pull up to the front entrance of her apartment building and disgorging families who had come to visit. Grandchildren who arrived to spend the day with their grandmas. She never asked if she could come for a visit, worried that there would be a pause, just a beat too long, and I might tell her that it wasn’t a good time—perhaps in the summer when the children were out of school and my work slowed up. And I never thought to ask what she felt when she looked out her front window. I do know now and want my own daughter to ask me. But she isn’t there yet.

I place the phone in its cradle (yes, I still use that kind of phone) and allow the sound of my daughter’s enthusiastic voice to fade. We have just finished what used to be our weekly, Sunday morning phone visit and now is our in-the-car-on-the-way-home from-work call. I know when she’s pulling into her driveway because she always chirps,

“I’m glad everything is good with you, Mom. I love you.” That signals the tender end to our conversation. I have received my allotted time.

This is not a complaint.  My daughter and I love one another deeply and our relationship is sustaining and satisfying to both of us.  Yet there is always a moment, in the quiet after I hang up the phone, that I hear the questions that remain unasked. She doesn’t yet know enough about what it is to be an old woman to know what they are.

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