Reflections on My Mother

My mother's hands.  Photo by Callen Harty.

My mother’s hands. Photo by Callen Harty.

I can’t stop thinking about my mother this week.

For months now it has seemed that she is at the end of her life, but she has kept waking up to each new day, seemingly strong and determined despite her frail body that weighs no more than seventy pounds or so. She is stubborn and tough, both of which are apparently family traits. She has talked often about how she might live to her 90’s (she is 88 now) or even longer.

All the while she has been growing more feeble.

About a week ago she told my sister, “I am ready to meet my Lord.” While we have thought she was near the end this was the first acknowledgement from her that I am aware of that it is impending. She has been talking about funeral arrangements also. When I went to visit on Sunday she noted several times that she could go any day now.

Lately she has been seeing people in her room that no one else can see. She could go any day now.

Because of these things this week I have been thinking about her a lot (or perhaps I should say a lot more). I have been nervously and periodically checking my phone for that phone call that tells me I either need to race eighty miles to see her before she goes or that I am already too late. That call will come. I just don’t know when. With her tenacity it could still be weeks or even months away. But I don’t think so. When a stubborn person says it is time, when they finally give in to the inevitable, you know that they no longer have much fight in them.

So when the phone rings I am scared to look at who is calling. I feel that I am as prepared as can be for the inevitable, but still . . . still, I am not and likely never will be ready.

On Sunday we laughed. Mom’s laughter has always delighted me and it did again on Sunday. Despite her claims that she is ready to go she is still creating memories for us. I wouldn’t mind her laughter as my last memory. There is such joy in that and it reminds me of so much joy from the days when she was younger, stronger, with all her faculties, and had most of a lifetime ahead of her yet. Maybe that phone call will wait a little bit longer but I’m afraid it won’t. Maybe there is more laughter yet to come, but tears seem more likely. I check my phone, and wait.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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