Two days short of a year ago, my mother left this world. She was 76, vibrant and strong and shocked by the fact that she had suddenly fallen ill with the prospect of death the only certainty. A year later (short two days) I still feel her presence and at least a few times a week I reach for my cell phone to call her. I have managed to delete her number off my “Favourites” list but not off my phone contacts, as though there is a chance I will one day need the details. Of course, at 49 years old, I am well-aware of the finality of the loss.
I am just not mature enough to hit the delete button.
My mother went to war for me. As a young child, at the age of 9, when corporal punishment was all the rage in a violent and damaged apartheid South Africa, my mother beat up my principal. He was a rabbi transplanted from an unforgiving and uncompromising world, to Africa where things were a lot different. He took it on himself to discipline us rowdy locals. And in doing so, one sunny Johannesburg winter’s day, at school line up, beneath the Eucalyptus trees, he called me to the front of the school, removed his belt and thrashed me. Repeatedly. He was told I had misbehaved on the school bus. I hadn’t. But that was hardly the point.
When I returned home that afternoon and tearfully told my mother of my humiliation, she reacted with the force that I didn’t think her 5.2Ft person capable of. In her ingenuity and focus, she found his physical address, jumped into her Datsun Sport and drove to his apartment. I could come with but had to remain in the car whilst she carried out her mission.
When greeted at the door by his wife, my mother was told that she couldn’t speak to her husband as he had a migraine and was taking a little nap. Undeterred, my mother pushed past her, stormed into his bedroom, removed the cushion from under the sleeping Rabbi and beat him with his own bedding, all whilst threatening that if he laid so much as a hand on her offspring again, she would kill him. And she meant it. No one would be brave enough to doubt it.
An aside (although hardly the point of the story), is that from that day on, my mother and the rabbi’s wife became best of friends. I always presumed that was because my mother had done to her husband what the Mrs had wanted to do for years.
I am not the first person to have lost a mother. And unlike many, I was privileged to have her in my life well into my adulthood. That also meant of course that could she drive me nuts for longer, as only mothers are able to. That is, until they are not. And then I would miss it.
One example is the immediate phone call that I would receive the moment I ended my radio talk show. It was a daily occurrence that she would call the moment I signed off. I had no time to even pack away my things, let alone exit the studio. And each day I would tell her just to give me 5 minutes as the studio needs to be silent. And each day she agreed. And then told me how wonderful the show was (whether she had actually listened or not). And then the next day she would the same thing.
And now, almost a year later, I am still surprised when each day after my show, that my phone doesn’t ring. And each day, after my show, I still miss those irritating phone calls.
I am blessed to be surrounded by people who care for me. Deeply and genuinely. For all the right reasons. I am blessed that my children knew and loved my mother and that my wife misses her just as much as I do. And I am grateful that my father and my siblings work each day to honour her legacy.
It’s just two days short of a year since my mother left this world. In the time since her passing the shock has dissipated, the loss remains and void is more noticeable. And I am no where near being ready to delete her number from my contacts.