calling (up) my mother

Tomorrow is the start of the third year in my doctoral program. Typically, I am raw nerves mixed with a hollow stomach, pacing practicing introductions to the class I teach, and excited anxious energy resolute. Today I feel numb. It’s been a month since my mother passed. These days have gone without my noticing. They feel like stagnation. Like separation. They marked the thirtieth wedding anniversary of my parents and my return to Syracuse (after my mother has died). But a return suggests some sort of routine, a coming back into. These days (that feel as if only a blink and like the nonplace and nontime sitting beside her bed for) have drained me as I try to reimmerse myself. And I find myself questioning displacement: if I feel more empty, I will continue buoyant, listless, surface. I can’t bury myself in work if I don’t exist embodied on ground. (How can I submerge if I can’t come down?)

I just stopped myself from calling my mother’s phone to talk to her about school tomorrow. I can’t hear her, so I listen to her over and over in this short video my dad recorded of her at home. I don’t know the origins of this saying. Except that it is her. She said this to my brother and I every time we stepped out the front door, at the end of every phone conversation, and by text every morning. “Be good. If you can’t be good, be rotten and tell me about it.” I can’t think of a better capture of her: her smile, her playful nature, her absolute and open love and support.

This is the first part of my life that I can’t call for her support. But I call it up.

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