On any given day the phone rings and based on the ringtone, I know it’s Girl, calling from college. When at all possible, I drop everything I’m doing and answer the phone with a happy, sing-song “Hellooooo!” After hellos and how are yous, the phone call flows with tiny inklings into each other’s day. To an outside listener, one may label the call as boring or non-eventful. To me, the phone call is a wonderful connection, and a great time filler for my daughter.
Time filler? As in, Girl fills her empty time with a phone call to me? Yep. And I love it. I have embraced being her “Filler” phone call. My friend Stacey coined this phrase years ago when her daughter would call her while walking from one class to another. Brief calls from her daughter’s point A to B. We college parents take what we can get.
You see, as we continually let our kids go (and let me tell you, this parenting gig is all about letting go,) we learn to embrace and accept the time they are willing to give us. Now don’t roll your eyes and feel sorry for me or think that sounds pathetic. I’ve tried to raise my kids to leave my nest and stand on their own. I’ve raised them to respect Hubs and I. And they do. And they are learning to live on their own. And the more I let them go, the more they come back to us willingly, without provocation. And they land at home. Sometimes in my arms, and sometimes in their paid for by me bedrooms. And sometimes, with a phone call while walking to and from classes while they are away at school.
I used to consider these little filler moments a way to hear Girl’s voice and know she’s ok. However, I had an epiphany recently. While these conversations are not always riveting, they are more than just fillers of time – they are deep connections for Girl and I. Even though she doesn’t know it….yet.
My epiphany occurred while driving from home to Target. I had filler time, and I pressed a button to call my mom. In a split second, I remembered: My mom is dead. I can’t call her. To talk. To tell her what I’m doing today. To check in. This happens daily. I go to call my mom, and I remember I just CAN’T. This filler phone call desire, is like muscle memory – I’ve been doing it forever. And now I can’t and realize, those calls weren’t just filling time and space.
Those phone calls with my mom – not all of them particularly riveting, sometimes cuing eye rolls because of whatever annoying thing my mom may have said – those phone calls were tiny yet deep ways to connect with my tether to the world. Up until the day she died, my mom was my tether. Talking with her, knowing she was around, was a connection to life itself.
Those phone calls with my mom. I thought they were just check ins and ways to fill the time. I didn’t know those filler phone calls gave me strength, lifted me up and made my world right.
I’m learning to live without those filler phone calls to my mom. My world still doesn’t feel quite right, especially in those seconds of wanting to dial her up and realizing I can’t. But what I do know now, what brings me more joy than I could have ever imagined? I am Girl’s tether. I, her filler phone call, her brief little hello and how are you, am her connection. I am a piece of her. And I am so grateful I GET to be this – for her. I am so grateful I get to do this with her, and she doesn’t even know it. And she doesn’t need to know it. She just knows she can call and say hello whenever and wherever she wants.
That’s the beauty and joy of motherhood. Being here, always being right here, whenever and wherever. To fill up the time and space. To fill our babes up with love.