Keeping Mum

There’s a level of panic that builds in you when you phone your mother and she doesn’t answer any of her phones. Not a sausage on the landline, and nothing on her two mobiles. Yes, two mobiles. Because my mother is a drug dealer or something.

Before Easter, I wouldn’t even have given it too much of a second thought. But since the stroke there’s always a little worry that you’re going to call and there’s not going to be an answer because the person you’re calling can’t come to the phone anymore. It’s a morbid thought and not in any way pleasant. But it’s a real fear. Just one that nestles, quietly, out of sight at the back of my mind.

Today it came to the fore a little as mum was unreachable at half past one this afternoon. I rang the house phone several times, thus allowing for her to be in the bathroom or whatever, but no answer. And her mobile phones both went unanswered – one ringing for ages and then saying it was unavailable, the other ringing and then giving me the engaged tone.

I sent texts which also went unanswered.

I was, I reckon, five or ten minutes from getting changed and hot-footing it over to Halifax to see if mum was lying sprawled on a floor somewhere, a casual glance through a window just showing the tip of a slipper past the end of a chair or something. And then mum rang me.

And opened with: “What do you want?”

Which was nice.

As it happened I was ringing to tell her that her slave workforce would be arriving tomorrow morning to do the various bits and bobs that needed doing before the trusted (for real, not like the dodgy fly-by-nights who did the driveway) guys who were coming in to redo all the decking (for, alas, it is insanely rotten in places because – for some reason – dad does not appear to have ever treated it with anything…) started their work on Monday. It was as simple as that, but escalated when no answer came back from anything.

Of course, she was out with “the witches” – the gang of women of a certain age who whisk mother away to things and make her sit through the film Lion at least twice and bang on and on and on about how wonderful I, Daniel Blake is. They were out in Halifax causing merry mayhem in Harvey’s (a highly over-rated shop in the town centre), because that’s what they predominantly do. They’re always in there. All the bloody time. It’s like Cocoon in that shop. You can feel your life force being drained when you just walk past.

While I was on the phone to mum I could her my aunt in the background guiding her on what to say, like she was being held hostage. “Tell him you’re with us…” she said. “Tell him you’re okay…” I was surprised I didn’t receive a picture on my phone of my mum holding up today’s newspaper. Actually, I wasn’t surprised. I suspect the only pictures any of them take on their phones are accidental ones of their own ears.

So I’ve had to get my 70-year old mother to agree to tell me when she goes out with the witches now. Rather than me having to ring her neighbours and have them peer through the windows or bang frantically on the door.

I feel like an over-anxious parent. It’s ridiculous.