My sister calls me this evening as I’m coming back from the grocery store saying she had tried to call Mom all weekend, left three messages and she never called her back. She was scared she was lying in a heap with her little poodle sniffing her.

My mom is a source of concern for my sister and I. She is 71 years old, twice widowed and lives alone in West Nashville. Since my dad died in 1992, Mom shut herself off, totally from all of her and Dad’s friends. In spite of being in pretty good health (and in spite of the Marlboro Red habit she has had for lo about 50+ years)she has not an iota of interest in going anywhere or doing anything. My sister and her family live in Knoxville and she is forever trying to get her to come visit, but she won’t. I live across town and rarely see her. She lives in West Nashville, for goodness sake. There is nothing happening on that side of town nor any real reason (other than her) for us to go over there. In fact, usually, she doesn’t want us, any of us around.

Every time there is a plan for my sister and her family to come visit or some other plan in place, Mom will inevitably turn up sick. The woman can will herself to get bronchitis. I’ve never seen anything like it. One would think she would delight in her 5 grandchildren coming to see her, but instead it causes her to have a hacking cough and hives.

Part of that, I think, is that her husband she married in 1996, was not the kind of guy who particularly related to young children. I think he was a bit OCD myself. I think while he was alive, Mom would get so nervous about the possibility of her husband being made nervous by her broods is why she would force herself into these exiles of sudden illness. He has been dead a year and from what she says, she prefers to be alone and just not have us in her face. I can call on a Saturday and say “Hey, we were going to come over.” Oftentimes, I get a “hmmmph” or she’ll announce she is in a bad mood.

The whole thing makes my sister and I terribly sad and we try to laugh about it to keep from becoming totally depressed by it. I know a lot of her problem is age and the fact that when my father died, a huge part of her died. Mom is a little on the shy side and Dad never met a stranger. He liked to be on the go and Mom’s introvertedness was a good balance. It worked for them. They had lots of friends and were always going here and there. She was the first of their group to be widowed and when the livlier spouse dies, it freaks people out and they don’t know how to act around the survivor. I think Mom sorta felt like a leper and avoided all of those people and possible situations that might bring moments of sadness. I can’t help but feel like if she’d have worked through that a time or two, she’d still see those dear people who were like extra parents to us and wonderful friends to her and Dad.

Sister finally got Mom to answer the phone and then I got her a little later. She used the same excuse about how we hang up too quickly before she can answer the phone and she even threw the “I was doing my Pilates” excuse. She is alive and well and holding down the QVC fort and seemingly is clueless as to why we get concerned about her. Nothing we can do except respect her need for privacy and solitude and go on about our business and try not to dwell on the fact I feel like an orphan when it comes to family.

I wish Dad were still here.