Phone Call

Source of photo: Encyclopedia Britannica


It should have been a hard holiday for my Mom. The week before Christmas, I was all packed and ready to leave for a week-long visit when my sister called to tell me she and my brother-in-law were both feeling poorly. No, she reassured me, it wasn’t Covid, but they didn’t feel well at all. Because I always stay with them when I come to visit my Mom, we regretfully made the decision that I should stay home. My sister was in no shape for company – not even her sister (!!) – and I’d just end up getting sick, too. Because we are ultra careful about not bringing germs into our Mom’s seniors residence, and because we would never lie about such a thing, neither of us would have been able to visit Mom in any case. It was with immense sadness that I unpacked my bags and stowed away their Christmas presents, which had been sitting in a box, wrapped and ready, beside my suitcase at the door.

We would come to be very, very grateful that I didn’t make that trip: my sister and my brother-in-law both had the flu – the real flu: what doctors call influenza – and it absolutely flattened them both for a month. The first week, they barely had the strength to crawl to the bathroom.

It was the first Christmas that Mom has ever spent alone and our hearts were broken. I cannot fully express how grateful we were for the amazing nursing staff and personal care assistants who took such wonderful care of her during the three weeks – including Christmas and New Years – that we could not visit.

Instead, we spent a lot of time on the phone. We are blessed that Mom still has a phone and knows how to use it: not many residents on Mom’s floor do have one, anymore. They must miss it, though: we have occasionally received a call from another resident who has wandered into Mom’s room and used the easy pre-dial buttons on Mom’s phone to give us a call.

When your parent has dementia, phone calls become precious events. My sister and I understand that the day may come when Mom forgets who we are. Mom already struggles with the remote control of her television and we know the day will come when even the easy, preprogrammed buttons on Mom’s phone may become too much for her to figure out.

When our mother calls, unless there is a really good reason, my sister and I drop everything. Mom doesn’t multi-task well anymore and I am always careful to find a secluded spot where she and I can talk with no background distractions, like a television droning, the dog barking or my husband calling out to me from another room. I never know if we are about to launch into a one-hour conversation or a quick, three-minute question and it doesn’t matter: I always get settled in for a nice, long chat. I let Mom guide the conversation: her mind wanders here and there and she frequently loses the thread of the conversation, but she recalls past events with a lot of clarity and I always love hearing her stories of times gone by.

Recently, Mom called while my husband and I were in the car. I signaled for him to stay quiet – having two people on a call really confuses Mom and she can’t wrap her head around the idea that I have a phone in my car – and then she and I proceeded to have a nice chat, just like we always do.

After we had both hung up, my husband finally spoke up, in a quiet, almost reverent voice. “That was one of the nicest, most loving conversations I have ever heard. If that were the last conversation you and your Mom had, you would have no regrets, whatsoever.”

I was pleased that he thought so, but more pleased when I told him it was just a ‘normal’ conversation. It’s how we speak, every time we speak. Yes, we are a normal family and yes, we had some really rough years. Lots of them. But now – right now – my sister and I are very consciously aware that the sand in Mom’s personal hourglass is running down. We both do our best to treat every conversation with Mom – and every visit – like an opportunity we won’t be getting back.

It could have been a terrible holiday season for Mom but we spoke so frequently on the phone, it was almost like being right there with her, each and every day.

Sometimes, an almost-empty hour glass can push you to rush yourself into a frenzy.

But sometimes, it helps you stop and just savour the moment.

Patti Moore Wilson ©


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

26 thoughts on “Phone Call”

  1. I’m glad you were able to stay in touch with her. After Alzheimers kicked in, I couldn’t talk to my father for more than a few minutes before he’d panic and hand the phone to my mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a loving and kind comment for your husband to share, the feedback about how he perceived the conversation with your mom that day. I also appreciate your focus and attention – your dedication to giving your mom your best — uninterrupted time w/o distractions (as much as possible). Slowing down to savour. Such wonderful wisdom there, Patti. Thank you for all of that. 🤍

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much Victoria 🙂🙏💕 It’s a bit of a miracle, how things worked out: for decades, I lived a full day’s drive away in another province. I retired and moved back to my home province just a year before Mom and my stepfather’s health began to decline pretty alarmingly. I am so grateful for the timing. And I have discovered I would have loved to work with seniors with dementia. They can be refreshingly honest and frequently hilarious. It’s truly been a blessing, having this time with my Mom 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. How wonderful that you moved closer just when they needed you the most. Oh — and you are right about how funny and uninhibited folks with dementia can be…my mother kept everyone around her laughing — thx to her wicked humor. It was the last part of her personality to diminish. Hugs to you! 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  3. One of the last very-long conversations I had with my mother, it was a phone call where towards the end of the conversation she mentioned how good it was to hear my voice. We had seen each other just a few weeks before that, and I only lived fifteen minutes away, but it was a comment that took me by surprise. She had never said it before. Looking back on it, I suspect she may have sensed her time was limited at that point as she passed away a short time after that, but that call will stay with me forever and is a great memory.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much, Annie 🙂 My husband is the gregarious sort who very naturally inserts himself into any conversation, including when I’m on the phone. Because it’s become so confusing for Mom when he does that, I have been leaving the room as soon as I know she is calling. He really had no idea how those calls are. Yes, validation is the right word. It felt quite lovely to hear him say that 🙂💕


  4. I love that you’re so caring and kind to your mom, Patti. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be, seeing her decline like that, but I’ve also heard a lot of people talk about the flip side. The challenges of dealing with people with dementia, and how it’s hard to be patient. Your kindness and really making her feel loved is something very beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you so much 🙂 What a lovely thing to say… Yes, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to dealing with people with dementia. My sister struggles with that, sometimes, but we are lucky to have one another as sounding boards. We tend to do different things with Mom: I don’t mind the repetition, so I do a lot of the chatting and reminiscing. My sister finds the repetition depressing so she does the Bingo – and other – activities. Win, win, win 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a beautiful story of a mother-daughter relationship that’s filled with love and compassion. It really touched me. We rarely hear stories like this and it gives me hope for the future with my own mother and daughter. The last few lines actually gave me chills. You are so right. Sometimes knowing we have little time left makes us rush, and other times it slows everything down so we can fully see it and savor it. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing a wonderful post!.. glad that you are having wonderful days with family even if it is at a distance, “Life gives us brief moments with another, but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a lifetime, So live that your memories will be part of your happiness.” (Author Unknown)… 🙂

    It is not the distance but the love that matters and you and your family are making wonderful memories to store in you heart and Mom and family will be with you always to visit any time you wish… 🙂
    When tomorrow starts without me
    And I’m not here to see,
    If the sun should rise and find your eyes
    Filled with tears for me.

    I wish so much you wouldn’t cry
    The way you did today,
    While thinking of the many things
    We didn’t get to say.

    I know how much you love me
    As much as I love you,
    And each time you think of me
    I know you’ll miss me too.

    When tomorrow starts without me
    Don’t think we’re far apart,
    For every time you think of me
    I’m right there in your heart.
    (Alena Hakala Meadows)

    Hope life is all that you wish for it to be and until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

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