My mom was calling me, again. I’d have to call her back. I was busy trying to get this article done for work and I just didn’t have time to talk to her right now.
This happened more times than I could count over the past year.
I was thousands of miles away in California and it became very easy for me to put off talking to her, to put off dealing with her COPD, her troubles, her hardships. I would be back in Illinois soon enough. I would see her and fix everything. My older sister and I discussed how I would take her to the doctor, try to find out what was really going on. I wanted so much to fix everything.
On Thursday, August 21, I talked to my mom several times.
“How is work going?” She asked.
“Oh you know, it’s going.” I replied.
“How are you mommy?”
This was a common refrain both of us relied on. Everything was fine, nothing was good.
My mom was having trouble figuring out the healthcare exchange website, again. What doctor could she go to? Who should she call? Should she contact the Marketplace or Blue Cross Blue Shield? She sounded confused. I brushed it off as her just having trouble with technology. I was annoyed. How many times was I going to have to go over this with her? I didn’t have time to help her, I’d call her back after my spin class. I promised to call her later that night.
“Don’t worry sweetheart, just talk to me tomorrow, I only work until 6:00.”
“Okay mommy, I love you. I will video chat you because I really want to see you, I haven’t seen you in forever!”
“Okay, sounds good kiddo. Talk at you later, love you.”
A few hours later my mom would die, alone in her bed. She couldn’t reach her rescue inhaler in time, or it wasn’t enough…we really don’t know.
I woke up on Friday, August 22 at 7:24 am to seven missed phone calls. I sat up and finally answered my phone, my twin was on the other line.
She screamed, “Mom died!”
I screamed too. I screamed on the floor for what felt like forever as my husband held me, “I knew something was wrong, I knew, why didn’t I do something?” I said it over and over.
In the coming weeks people would tell me and my family that there was no way we could have known.
They are wrong.
I did know.
My sister and I had talked about it for weeks. My mom had been distant, she wouldn’t video chat and the one time I did video chat with her she wouldn’t look at me. She clearly wasn’t feeling well, but I would be in Chicago soon and I would get to the bottom of everything. I didn’t know how short on time I was.
This past July, Brian Crecente posted about a games journalism mentorship opportunity on Twitter. I decided to apply and to my everlasting surprise I was chosen to be the mentee. I called my mom and told her all about it, she was thrilled. She had always been my greatest ally.
I love video games but I don’t know if I love them in the same way others do. I used to tell myself I had no business talking about games, exploring them, or even playing them. As a child I played them all the time but as I grew older I didn’t think they were meant for people like me. Instead, I buried my head in Science Fiction books where I happened across Ray Bradbury whose work has made an indelible mark upon me.
“Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and super intellectual.”–Ray Bradbury
I write about people and video games are nothing if not about people–our flaws, our hopes, our collective humanity (or lack thereof) is reflected back to us. I am fascinated by how these games change us, how we enfold them into our own life story, so often without even realizing it. I hope to write about this and more. I hope to write in a way that would make my mom and dad proud. They were the ones who taught me how to love journalism, to love the news. As a child I would wake up to the sound of my parents reading the newspaper to one another.
I padded downstairs to my mom yelling, “Doug! You know I hate when you do that.”
“But this story is great, just wait one more sentence, listen…”
The newspaper would end up covering the entire kitchen table as they passed each section back and forth. They loved the responsibility of reading the news. My parents never let me forget that I had a duty to educate myself, to stay connected to the world.
I hope that with this mentorship I can honor that responsibility.
And now, I begin my journey into the unknown.