My mother’s television remote is broken and somehow this is my fault.
She calls, often, to let me know. As if I could ever forget.
My mother is not weak. She is not helpless, far from it. She is also not the stereotypical made-for-tv, warm and cozy, milk and cookies – ‘Oh, sweetie, how are you?’ – grandmotherly type. Not a chance.
She’s more Grandma 5G – maybe OG – a tech-savvy senior first in line at Apple for the latest and greatest i-whatever. Sure, she’s a crazy cat lady who quilts, reads, and does yoga, yet is also on Instagram, Facebook and, my kids assure me soon enough, Snapchat.
She has one Facebook account for her iPad, another for her iPhone – ‘who has time to remember all these passwords, Kathy.’
If she had more electronics, she’d have more Facebook profiles, you can bet on it.
She is not a wallflower, but instead, a brick wall. Of opinion. Of attitude. Brains. Strength. Will power. Conviction. She’s politically active, loud, opinionated, and not a fan of waiting her turn. Ever.
She can convince, convert and complain effectively enough to get cable companies to show up on time, doctors to share personal cell numbers, and credit card companies to refund late fees and – get this – apologize. Profusely.
And yet, if something breaks in her home, this is my fault. Mine alone. The six degrees of separation knows no limits.
“Kathy? Are you there? This is YOUR MOTH-ER,” she shouts each syllable with deliberate annunciation into voicemail. “TEE-VEE reeee-mote NOT work-ing. REEEE-MOTE. BRO-KEN. You fixed hot water heater, now re-mote dead. DEAD. Does NOT work. AT ALL.”
Water-heater. Answering machine. I don’t see the connection, but okay.
“Kath-y? Is that you? It is YOUR mother. NO POW-ER. Power is OUT. Using cell phone. POWER OUT. You fixed printer, and now POWER IS OUT.”
For someone so tech-savvy, she has yet to grasp the ins and outs of how phones actually work and is always surprised if I actually answer.
“Kathy? Is that you?”
Yes, mom. You called me. On my cell. It’s me.
“Oh, didn’t sound like you. The garage door, it’s not opening. And yes, I pushed the button. It’s broken, ever since you were helped with the cats. What did you do? Hasn’t worked the same since. Kathy? Are you there?”
Yes, mom. Still here.
She’s equally surprised when her calls are somehow sent to voicemail, which happens. A lot. Because Caller-ID and all.
“Kath-y? Dry-er BRO-KEN. BROH-KEN. Does not work. Loud. Noise. Wi-fi working, but dryer broken. Call me back.
This is your mother.”
She leaves messages as if English were not my first language.
As if I had another mother.
Despite living several area codes away, and regardless of her innate talent to navigate the internet and customer service with ease and remarkable success, it is I she calls first with whatever crisis besieges her.
“Kath-eeeey? Net-flix. Not wor-KING. Log-in. Fail.
So I respond with my own midlife teenage temper tantrum, ignoring incessant texts and sending calls to voicemail. I claim Facebook abstinence from relentless posts and messages. I tattle desperately to my sisters about “their mother” and beg one of them to take the fall – I mean, the call.
But I remain a good daughter, so eventually, in a couple hours, or maybe days, I call back.
Sorry, Mom, missed your call. I’m working. What’s up?
And it begins, her long list of grievances, calling to attention all that is not working in her life.
Here’s the thing: she is me. She is my future; I can feel it coming.
Someday, sooner than I care to admit, my own TV remote will die, and I without fail I will text a kid or two, maybe leave a staccato, desperate voicemail about malfunctioning life, and ramble on about how I need them to listen, please, and come right away to fix whatever is broken.