By Angela Hawn
I think my mother is trying to reach me, though it’s not quite as easy as it once was. Even the biggest and most powerful cell service providers haven’t figured out how to dial a phone once you’re dead.
We were close, my mom and I. But we argued, too. Before this most permanent of separations, we could sometimes go days without speaking, either or both so personally aggrieved by some dispute or another, that we’d rather simmer in silence than give voice to compromise.
Yet truces always followed, and we’d carry on as before, a mother-daughter routine built up over a lifetime. There was never any finality to those silences, not like there is now.
Our most recent battles had concerned life after death, a topic visited with increasing frequency once my dad died. Staunchly religious, my mother took the pro side. How else could she deal with my father’s leaving? Perhaps envisioning him in heavenly surroundings, lounging on a deck chair, some coconut flavored cocktail in hand, as if on a never-ending holiday, made it easier to accept his departure. Maybe she saw herself joining him pool-side one day, as they’d never managed such a vacation while he was alive.
“Your poor father,” she’d moaned, as we’d packed his clothes, smoothing creases carefully along seams, rolling sock pairs into balls and discarding those without mates, while I bit back my own philosophies on the hereafter. I’d always favored the Tony Soprano death scene: one minute you’re laughing and eating pizza with your family, the next minute, you’re not.
“What about Ouija boards?” she’d asked next, shocking me into silence and effectively halting conversation; we’d never discussed Ouija boards before.
Now I wonder if it might be an avenue of communication worth exploring. In some dim corner of memory, barely salvageable, I resurrect a vision of high school friends scaring the pants off each other, holding an impromptu séance. One knock meant yes, two meant no. A glass of water on the table had spilled somewhere in the middle of the whole ghostly process, and we all swore none of us had touched it.
Could it be that easy? I imagine my mother hovering over a table where the occupants all look upwards while holding hands, hoping to conjure their dearly departed.
“Elizabeth!” My mother shouts, employing the unforgettable tone of a frustrated parent. I will myself to stay put and not turn heel like some wild adolescent.
Is that a glass on the séance table? It’s hard to tell from way up here, so high and far away. I channel all of what’s left of me into that glass, focusing like life depends on it, but I can’t make it topple over.
Still, it wobbles a bit and the water inside wavers. Everyone notices, including the surprised-looking medium, who had promised my mother a sign if she heard anything.
My mother nods. Her parental ability to elicit a response from even the remotest child has been established.
“Hello, Elizabeth,” she smiles.