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I last heard her voice in September, I think. My mother visited over Labor Day weekend, a visit that I really had to push for, and while she tired easily she hadn’t yet lost her voice. That came later in the Fall.

It was almost late December when my mother was diagnosed with ALS. A disease I knew nothing about. I was only vaguely aware of the ice bucket challenge before my brother pointed out the connection. I still don’t know much about ALS. But I guess I know everything there is to know. Unlike cancer or other diseases, there aren’t any medications or treatments. Or so I understand. My three siblings have done the Googling. I haven’t; I won’t. And yet, I still find it unbelievable that medically, there’s nothing to do to help my mother.

Before I moved to North Carolina, I lived in Connecticut. A former place called home where my parents had also lived at one point. Former students of hers would stop me on the street to ask about her, even in their too-cool-for-school late teens, early 20’s, “Your mother taught me to read,” they said. Can you imagine? My mother was someone who taught kids to read. Among other things, I teach adults how to help survivors of past abuse but she taught children to read.

She taught me to read.

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Future reading recommendations for my daughter from my mother.

With my mother’s voice gone, so is my tolerance for the small stuff. Apparently Pieces generally are a pretty empathetic lot but I’m done engaging with people who are over-committed or have a hard time saying “no” so keeps rescheduling or allow long lapses of time to go by without a hello. I turn down more Facebook “friend” requests than I accept. Clothes that I don’t absolutely LOVE and look good on me are headed out the door today. A fear of less or scarcity is not good enough reason to hold onto something, anything. Small talk (never my strong suit), random “likes” of Instagram photos that don’t really strike a chord with me and engagement with Twitter ignorance have all gone by the wayside. Ignorant jerk? No excuses, you’re blocked. I’m doing work that I love. And am making real changes to do only that work. I Tweet when I feel moved to, not out of a need to “be out there”.

When my energy is going toward choices or behavior that has less personal meaning, I tire more easily and have less time for what is truly important. I’d rather spend some time texting with my mother, while she can. Or holding my husband’s hand as we talk, when we haven’t seen each other all day. Not moving through the world as if busy is the new black.

Sometimes, I save voicemail messages. I have one from my grandmother who passed away two years ago and many, many from my husband. “What if I never hear this person’s voice again?” I think, superstitious to the core. (Just like my mother and her mother.) Remembering that I did this, I searched on my phone yesterday for one from my mother. We are so similar that sometimes she drove me crazy. I didn’t always save my mother’s messages. But I had one. Nothing out of the ordinary but the energy in her voice took my breathe away.

I keep playing it.

What I wouldn’t give for a birthday call today. We texted already. But boy, in a day where we all get what seems to be a million texts a day, I would give so much just to hear my mother’s voice again. The old voice, the one that I know is as familiar as my own. One more time, on my birthday.

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