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Thursday, December 09, 2004
Tuning Out
My mother has been calling me at work a lot lately. Pretty much every day. She “hates” to interrupt me, so she’ll build up (and not write down, of course) a list of things she wants to tell me / remind me about / nag me about. And once she starts talking, there’s no stopping her. Even if she forgets what she was going to tell me. Seriously, I’d have to yell, “I’M CROWNING!” to get her to stop.

Complicating things is her weakness (fondness) for digressions. She can’t complete a thought without remembering something else and immediately (mid-sentence) having to tell me about it. My grandmother often says it’s nice when they’re here for two weeks, because that gives my mom enough time to finish all of the stories that she tells in the middle of one another.

So, she’s been calling me. And, being the good son I am, I half-listen to her as I half-try to work. It’s not ignoring, exactly, although that’s what I did as a teenager. No, this is more like filtering. I listen for key words/ideas and the rise in her voice when she asks a question. Today, she was going on about her Christmas list and how she needs some new insulated cups, and that we shouldn’t get her a CD player (as I’d previously mentioned), and she was wondering what the plan was for the weekend (when I will be taking her shopping), and then back to the insulated cups. She talks pretty loud (even louder than before her stroke), so I just put the receiver on my shoulder (facing away from my ear) and kept reading, every once in a while picking up the receiver to say, “Uh-huh” or “Okay.” And then came the direct questions.

“Did you watch Lost last night?”

“No. I think Michelle taped it.”

And then she went into another freeform exposition about how her VCR cut off the end of Lost when it flipped over to start taping West Wing (also touching on crucial plot points that I would not know having not yet watched it).

“Did you watch West Wing?”

“No. I think Michelle . . . I’ll have to check and make sure I have it.”

“Okay, I’ll save it for you just in case.” (pause) “Man, West Wing was devastating!”