"Marian, I have been wracking my brain and I just cannot think of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda's name...Oh."
Now, part of this was just Ruthie's natural adorableness. During that time, when you called Ruthie's answering machine, you would hear the following message:
"You have reached 765...Oh, no, I beg your pardon! That's wrong. It's 756-XXXX." It never occurred to my grandmother that you could erase the incorrect outgoing message and start over. Instead, she begged the collective pardon of every single caller who did not happen to reach her at home.
But more than just Ruthie being Ruthie in the case of Zelda, my mother is also a whiz at getting other people's brains unstuck. This was something that drove her a little nuts when I was in high school. I'd ask for her help with writing a paper, but what I really needed was for her to sit next to me to keep the brain pathways clear. Mom didn't understand how her sitting next to me was integral to the writing process, and would wonder aloud if she might be allowed to do something other than watch me type and chew my fingernails.
I was reminded of this yesterday while I was writing an article for one of my clients about the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race. This ridiculously grueling race makes cyclists ride over 65+ miles of French provincial cobblestones, causing tire punctures, bent frames, and, according to one reporter, really really jiggly asses. In describing the race, I had already used the word grueling, and I was looking for a noun that would describe the difficulty of the race. Brutality was WAAAAY too strong, but my old friend Shift-F7 was not offering up any reasonable alternatives.
Under normal circumstances, I'd give my mom--the human thesaurus--a call. Yesterday, I just had to keep calm and carry on, and ultimately use a word that just was not quite right. (Next time I see Mom, I'll ask her what I should have used, and I KNOW she'll have the right word on the tip of her tongue. And then I'll slap my forehead because I should have known it all along.)
Since I've lived my entire adult life several states away from my mother, I've gotten used to being able to take advantage of her brain-unstickiness abilities via phone. Most of our phone calls last just a few moments, but it's nice to know she's always there to ask questions and get reassurance.
Yesterday afternoon gave me another opportunity to wish I could call her, as I was trying to figure out how to use up some leftover beef roast. Sure, I could have googled it or checked a recipe website. But why do that when my mom, who could make a gourmet meal from what you can find in the average frat fridge, is a quick phone call away?
And of course, Mom is the person I call when LO is sick but he's not quite sick enough for me to want to get his pediatrician on the horn, as he has been for the last week. (Googling his symptoms is an excellent way to make sure I don't sleep ever again for fear of the mucus cancer he most certainly must have contracted). Having seen two daughters through most of the usual illness of childhood gives her great insight on whether I should worry or not. (I think the answer has always been "not" so far).
The good news is that Mom is doing much better now. She's been moved from the regular hospital to a rehabilitation center, where she's been proudly showing off her finger and toe movements. She still has the tracheostomy in her throat, so she is unable to talk, but she can mouth words and make herself understood. I miss having her at the other end of the phone. I miss knowing I could call her to complain about mean librarians or tell her about LO's newest tricks. I miss the head-slapping realization that I do remember the name of my third grade teacher just as she picks up the phone.
I just hope Mom's nurses are enjoying how her brain unstickiness talent is giving them the newfound ability to remember high school locker combinations and where their spare keys are hiding.