Although we reside on different continents, we speak regularly by phone, my Mom and I. We talk about what's happening in her life. She likes the opportunity to share what's going on in her life. She likes the way I listen to her, getting what she says. She may not realize that's what she likes about our conversations. But I know she likes being listened to. Don't we all?
Sometimes the entire conversation goes by and the only thing that's happened is I've listened to her. When I have to go, I tell her it's time for me to go and I'll call her again. Then she'll say what a great conversation we had. And she means it. For her, a great conversation is when she's listened to. Her listening to what I say, on the other hand, may only be an optional extra.
Sometimes it'll sound like she's going to. For example, she'll ask if I've seen such and such a movie. I'll say "Yes I have", and I'll be about to share what I thought about it when she'll interrupt and say "Oh! I loved that film!" (she calls movies films) and then she'll talk for ten minutes or more non-stop about what she thought about it.
Being listened to is a gift I want her to have. But it's not why I called her on Mother's Day. I called her on Mother's Day less to her on listen than to speak. I called her to acknowledge her for being my mother. I called her to thank her for the gift she's given me: my life.
To do that, I had to start by interrupting her. As the new conversation started, immediately teetering on the edge of the slippery slope of the all too familiar free association stream of consciousness blend of news, opinions, non sequiturs and well meaning chit chat which fills the space stoically but doesn't really communicate, I said "Hi Mom. It's Laurence. Happy Mother's Day! I'm calling to thank you for giving me my life.".
It went very quiet all of a sudden - that's very unusual for my Mom, to say the least. Then, so quietly I at first wondered if the connection had dropped, I heard her say "Oh ...". It wasn't the "Oh" of someone who was dismissing something I'd said. It wasn't the "Oh" of someone who was questioning, doubting something I'd said. It was the "Oh" of someone who had just been unexpectedly and deeply touched, rocked to the core. It was the "Oh" of someone who's world had suddenly incomprehensively shifted on its axis.
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