Wednesday, August 19, 2009
We rely solely on the internet to provide a telephone line. Woefully, getting a connection in our new home took ten days, approximately a cup and a half of perspiration, and two rival companies seeking our patronage. We were left high and dry.
In between, I tried to talk to Mater, to calm the onslaught of questions she was bubbling with regarding California and my surroundings, but with a fragile internet connection it was akin to shuffling through a mud swamp with one's ears plugged with bits of tree bark.
My mother could hear my voice without fail, but of Mater's words I gathered no more than six seconds at a time before a silence fell and I found myself with a seemingly dead line; she would resurface moments later at the tail end of a good story or a query.
We developed a plan soon enough, and it worked, so to speak, in this manner.
Because she could hear me, I suggested she make ready a series of questions to ask rapidly during the time I could hear her until all was hushed, which I would indicate respectively with "I can hear you now," and "stop, you're gone again."
To an eerie silence I would then chatter the answers at my own pace, interrupted by the occasional glimmer of "hmmm," or "I see," whereupon I would shout, "I hear you- talk to me quickly!" and Mater might fling out another question or two, or tell me something she had just remembered, until her voice vanished and it became my turn to converse at length.
We carried on that way for days upon days, getting rather adept at resolving the issue and formulating a pattern by which we had, I think, a halfway-decent level of communication considering the set of circumstances we found ourselves in.
Ah, but then.
Then I lit upon a new method of occupying the silent moments. Instead of furnishing my curious mother with details of the new neighbourhood, and whether I was suitably attired in sunblock, sunhat and sunglasses, I read, aloud, entire sections of a book I had just added to the collection. On my first excursion to the nearby downtown, I found an old and lovely copy of Macbeth. It carried the scent of old libraries and worn pencils, and upon it was scribbled here and there thoughts of a reader from some forty years before.
I have for years threatened Mater with the complexity of Shakespeare's tragedy, a story I am particularly fond of and which, I hasten to note, my mother is not.
Delighted with my purchase, I was, and I set about reading bits and pieces of the play to my mother as the faulty telephone line held her hostage.
"I can't hear you right now," I would say to Mater with a smile she could see all too well, "but I'll just read a bit of Macbeth now, and if you want me to stop at any point, just say the word. Stop me whenever you get tired of listening. I hear no arguments from your end. Well, then, on I go!"
And on I went.
Oh, poor Mater on the other end of the line, struggling to be heard through a thick silence. From time to time I caught, I thought, a momentary fragment of her voice, a glimpse of "-op readin-" and then she was gone again.
All is well now: the book has been shut, the telephone is functioning, and we have resumed normal discussions pertaining to sunblock, sunhat and sunglasses, the quality of the neighbours, the various rooms of the apartment, Spouse's early opinion of his new place of work, the chance of thunderclouds on any particular day...
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 7:25 PM