Why is it that when I'm sick I revert to being a child again?
When I don't feel well, all I want is for my mama to come and bring me chicken soup and lay her cool hand on my forehead and tell me it's going to be all right. It doesn't matter that I'm a mother myself now and my mother is 80 years old. When I'm sick, in body or in spirit, no one can make it better like she can.
I wonder. Do my children feel that way about me? They're adults now. They have lives of their own and "significant others" to comfort and cheer them. Maybe they really don't need me now.
Still, it's a tonic for my soul when one of them calls to say, "Mama, I'm confused. What should I do?" Or, "Mama, I got a raise. I couldn't wait to tell you."
Sometimes when days go by and they don't call, I wonder if I failed them somehow. Maybe they don't see me the way I've always hoped they would: as that one special person who's always on their side.
Sometimes I try to tell myself that it's a good sign when they don't call. Maybe it means I did such a good job of mothering that they're totally independent and in control of their lives. Maybe they're so mature and well adjusted that even illness or heartbreak doesn't make them want their mama.
But then I start remembering ...
I remember when my 20-something graduate student daughter had her tonsils out and came home to recuperate. She had a fever and her throat was so swollen she couldn't even swallow. The doctor had given her medicine. There was nothing I could bring her or do for her that would help. Only time and rest would make it better.
She seemed to be asleep so I turned to tiptoe out of the room, but she grabbed my hand. And, though she couldn't speak, her eyes said, "Mama, stay with me." I sat down and did nothing but hold her hand for hours. It was as comforting to me as to her. And I'm sure she doesn't even remember it now.
I remember when my son was out of town on a school trip and afraid he was losing the girl he loved. He called me at 2 a.m. to come and get him so he could go talk to her. And I went. Even though it was more than two hundred miles, round-trip, I went. Because Mamas know how it hurts to lose your first love.
And I remember when my middle daughter, my busy Boeing rocket scientist daughter, announced she was coming to visit, "for no reason." A $500 plane ticket for a three-day visit isn't for no reason. Mamas know. We sat up most of the night discussing how you know when you're in love.
So, I guess they do still need me. Even if they don't call as often as I'd like, they do call. Sometimes, it's just to hear a familiar voice. Sometimes, it's, "Mama, I'm making potato salad. Why doesn't it taste like yours?" Sometimes they're wrestling with an important decision, and I'm humbled that they even care what I think.
And sometimes, when they're sick or lonely or just plain blue, they call for a little long-distance chicken soup from their Mama.