August 19, 1997.
Mummy has changed- her voice tells me so. First I thought it was the noises from the bazaar or that the voices of the other people had mixed with mum’s on the phone. But the old man behind the glass shook his head today and said something about disturbances in international phone calls.
I tried telling myself that. But I could hear voice changing –growing old- over the telephone.
August 24, 1997.
Every Sunday at church, I pray to the Lord for mum’s happiness. Then I tell Father Peter about the naughty things I did… but all this always feels slow. I look at the clock ticking away and become excited at the thought of mum.
We-me and gram- always go to the PCO and call mum every sunday.
The voice sounds excited too, ringing and tringing.
“Lucy?” her voice sounds like she is looking for me- like when we played Hide-And-Seek and I always won, even if I was behind the sofa! Mum always looked everywhere, but not at me.
“Mum!” I speak softly.
I remember the first time when I heard her voice over the phone and I’d dropped it and went around searching for her.
But when she wasn’t there, I cried. Tommy came and sat by my side – he knew how I felt. He once saw himself in the mirror and barked at the glass for an hour.
August 31, 1997.
Mum has changed. She asks me different questions. She asks me about what class I studied in!
“Third,” I said, confused. “You know that… you teach me everyday!”
“Uh… yeah,” she said.
September 7, 1997.
She asked me today when my birthday was. And she didn’t recognize Tommy over the phone.
Gram said she was growing old in America faster, so she was having trouble remembering.
“So bring her back,” I said, suddenly afraid. “Before she forgets me too.”
“Don’t worry love,” Gram said and smiled and the lines on her forehead dissolved and then came back.
“When will I go to her?” I asked her again as I do everyday.
“Soon, love… when she sends for you.”
Gram said she is here to take car of me.
But mum tells me to take care of Gram!!!
I tell mum about it and she smiles. I feel her laugh tinkling in the telephone wire like the tring tring. She is happy.
I feel happy when she is happy.
I wipe the tears with the back of my hand and close the little diary. It is 15 years later and I’m in a taxi in America where my mum lives.
I knock on the wooden door. Then I see a small button. It rings a bell when I push it.
It brings back memories and a smile.
“Yes?” a woman opens the door, dressed as a nurse.
“Yes. She’s home… who’re you?”
“I’m Lucy, her daughter.”
“Oh come on in,” she steps aside and I enter.
“Where is she?” I was impatient, excited.
“In her room…,” she pointed at a closed door.
I walk up to her room and knock.
A woman sits on the bed. From her wrist, a pipe leads to a white, plastic bag- an IV drip. Machines beep around her- intermittently and ceaselessly.
“Lucy,” she holds her arms open, but I can’t move.
She is not my mum.
“Y-you are not m-my mother,” I blurt.
She looks hurt. Then she closes her eyes and shakes her head slightly. I stare at her face. She seems to be in agony. I see a tear roll down her cheek and instinctively step closer.
“Come here,” she whispers, opening her eyes.
It was her voice! It is the voice I’ve grown up to, but her face is different. I move closer and sit beside her.
“I’m Aunt Marie,” she says finally, wiping her tears.
“So you called me every week,” I muse out loud.
“Yes… Beth, your mother came here for me… I was sick… she met an accident… she died… I couldn’t bring myself to tell you that… so when you called me mum, I didn’t stop you… I became your mum.” She sobs into my shoulder, and I put my arm around her.
“But why?” I find myself speaking.
“You were eight… you needed a mother… and I had a miscarriage 20 years ago… I’d always wanted a daughter…”
I wipe her tears away and kiss her cheek.
“Can I still call you mum?”