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Mother’s Day and Missing Mom

“Yes, Mom, what do you want?” I said quietly into the phone.

“My boss is sitting right here. I can’t talk.”

My mom had been calling me daily at my office for six months. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer in the spring of my 3rd year of law school.

As a newly-minted lawyer with a government agency in downtown D.C., my first job, a boss and an office (albeit very small and without a window), I was learning to deal with her daily calls.

“No, I can’t tell you that”, I said.

She persisted.

“Just tell me what your bra size is?” she asked, again.

“Mom, c’mon, I’m in my office, please, understand.” I pleaded.

She pleaded right back.


“I’m in the yarn store. Do you want me to knit you a sweater or not?”

I gave up.

“36B”, I whispered into the phone, as my male boss rolled his eyes upward.

A year later my Mom died of cancer. She was 54, I was 28.

I still have the red V-neck, cotton sweater she made me, although it no longer fits.

While I have a very old sweater as a memory, many of my friends now have very old moms.

My 50- and 60-something friends complain to me that their aging moms call them all the time.

“Every night, can you believe it,” one tells me, “and she worries when I’m not home. She’s still telling me to eat my vegetables, asking me if I’ve been to the doctor, bugging me about the kids or my job or my husband. When are we going to visit her? Or drive her to her many doctors’ appointments. Or run to the store to get her a new light bulb or reading glasses. I’m tired of hearing her complaints about who she did or didn’t sit with at dinner. Honestly, my mom is driving me crazy. Doesn’t she know I have a life?”

I bet she does know that you have a life. And she probably wants to be part of it.

My Mom called me daily at the office for over a year while she was ill. Then one day she stopped calling.

3 weeks later, on a sunny spring afternoon as my Dad and I sat by her bed in the intensive care unit of a hospital in New York City, she died. It was the Tuesday after Mother’s Day. Thoughtful as always, she chose, I felt, to wait and not ruin the holiday for us.

I would give anything for another phone call, annoying, persistent, nagging, critical, I’d take it.

And you know what, Mom? You have a wonderful grandson and granddaughter that you never got to meet. And just this past fall, you became a great-grandparent.

What else would I tell her? Oh yes, my bra size has changed in the past 33 years. But the sweater is still lovely.

Miss you forever, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

Nancy Wolf

Nancy L. Wolf writes about parenting, family life, higher education and mental health from the perspective of someone who has seen it all and still has a strong sense of humor. She practiced law for 30 plus years while raising 2 now adult kids and has been married for 36 years to a wonderfully tolerant man. Now semi-retired, but hardly retiring, she helps parents of young adults with mental health challenges through and "parents of young adults who struggle" on facebook. In her spare time, Nancy is a volunteer college advisor with a in Wash DC, a group that helps low-income kids get to college and on the board of NAMI Montgomery County She relishes being the most opinionated member of her book club, sticks to advanced beginner classes in pilates and regularly cleans up after two unruly rescue terriers. And did I mention that Nancy is a new grandma? Photos of her adorable grandson are available upon request.

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Kim Jorgensen Gane

Friday 9th of May 2014

Although it's not fresh, my heart hurts for the young woman you were who lost her mom far too soon. I'm sorry for your loss.

nancy wolf

Friday 9th of May 2014

appreciate your comments! treasure your moms and daughters, even the annoying ones!


Friday 9th of May 2014

What a lovely tribute, Nancy. Thank you for sharing it.


Friday 9th of May 2014

I miss everyone of those five phone calls a day. well not the calls as much as the woman.

It's still hard to write about as she was collateral damage in a way after 9/11. Fell and died the next month. I lived in Manhattan a place that had no room for one more death.

Anyway thanks for that beautiful tribute and the realization (again) I had more time with her as I was 51

kim tackett

Friday 9th of May 2014

Nancy, what a wonderful tribute. My own mom turns 80 next week, and I am trying to appreciate every single thing about her... especially those characteristics that used to drive me nuts, but I have now adapted. That sweater is an amazing gift, as was your mom.

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