Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Conversation - #fridayflash

Photo credit: Gusgus2 @ trekearth

"Have I called at a bad time?" I ask.

I can hear he is distracted, barely listening.

"No," he says, "it's fine."

"Oh," I say. "Good."

There's a pause. He doesn't rush to fill it, so I do.

"We took Trixie to the dog spa today," I say, looking down at the ridiculously cute pom-chihuahua mix spinning at my feet. She always spins when she wants something. Spins, then sits pretty, all black fur and dark eyes. She looks like a fruit bat and weighs all of seven pounds. The vet says she needs to go on a diet. She has doubled her body weight since we had her fixed two years ago.

"She looks really cute, " I say, and am about to tell my 13-year-old son that the groomer put a paisley bandana around her neck when he interrupts to scream at his younger brother.

It hurts my ears.

It hurts my heart.

I wait until he's done. Then I wait to see if he'll say anything, or notice if I'm still there.

He says nothing.

I can hear him breathing. I can hear his fingers working the controls of his X-box.

Finally I say something, unable to bear the silence.

"Anything new and exciting?" I ask.

"Nope," he says.

"How's school?"

"Fine," he says.

"How's your brother?" I ask.

"He's fine."

"Good," I say.

Silence descends on the conversation.

My sons live with their father and I can't tell you how painful it is to only see them every other weekend. We lose touch. We become strangers. I don't know who they are anymore, or how to talk with them.

I force myself to call them, to let them know I haven't forgotten about them - how could I - but they never want to talk to me on the phone. They have nothing to tell me. They barely listen to things I tell them. There is no conversation, just stilted awkwardness.

I can talk with complete strangers more easily than I can talk to my own children.

As always, I feel sadness settling into the hollow void in my chest. I fight it off. I try to sound perky.

Since he won't tell me anything about himself, I try to tell him something about me. He never asks. I don't honestly thinks he cares. But I try. Trying is all I have.

"I found out one of my stories won a prize this week," I say.

"Oh yeah," he says.

He doesn't ask what story, what contest, what prize.

I hear his fingers, working the game.

Tears spill from my eyes and drip from my chin.

"I have to go now," I say.


"I love you," I say, barely able to speak the words but meaning them utterly.

"Love you, too," he says. Flatly. As if by rote.

He hangs up.

The dial tone buzzes in my ear.


  1. sad when kids and parents can't connect. early mornings in the car i watch kids and parents in my rearrview and see there is absolutely NO communication..what is up with this?? You captured the hollowness very well.

  2. Aw, so sad. Fiction or not, I feel like giving you a hug right now.

    One of those universal moments everyone can relate to whether they're a parent or have been a teenager.

    Beautifully written and heartbreaking. Well done, Cathy.

  3. A sad story' but don't forget one is a teen now & they sure change in a hurry' & not always for the best at times. Keep your chin up & keep smiling. Kids have a way of growing into great adults & I'm sure yours will too. Love Mom

  4. Yes, this tugs at the heart. No real connection anymore with her children. Her "I love you" is a mother-full. Child's "Love you, too" only means goodbye.

    Trying is all she has. That is so sad.

    Great little piece, Cathy.

  5. Aww. I haven't seen my eldest in two years. I only wish I could call her. This was accurate. Take care.

  6. (What an unusual image that is.) I would encourage this mother to keep the love coming. I can't imagine that love won't win out in the end, it just might take incredible persistence.

  7. This is my biggest fear. They say kids turn into monsters as teens. (shiver)

    Ah, hell, I'm sorry Cathy. I dunno how close to home this one is, but...

    Here's a big hug, Chicka. Just keep loving them, they will come back to you. :)

  8. It is no fiction that it is hard being a mum. You have captured the feeling, Cathy. I like the inclusion of the pom-chihuahua ('specially since I have a foxy-chihuahua.)

  9. Dammit Cathy.. you went and made me cry again.
    I relate and understand but its not the same. I understand that they are still your babies so the hurt is worse. But as you have told me a number of times. Its the age and he's a boy and at that age they are so self absorbed. I know it doesn't help the hurt go away. I wish you didn't hurt so bad. Hugs your way.

  10. This one hurt to read. Poignant and crushing story.

    Mechanically--perfect pacing, dialogue, pitch. Cathy, you have talent, and I bet your ears pick up so much in your day to day life for your writing to come to life as it does.

  11. You have your dog, he has his game. It's a shame only you want to share, but you wonder if kids closing themselves off is a defense mechanism against the hurt of distance.

  12. Powerful and raw, Cathy... I truly feel for you (or the protagonist) and as a dad (late in life), I will remember tales such as this... We were all teens once. It's certainly rough...

  13. A sad, powerful tale. I'm guessing this happens more and more in this day and age. Good story.

  14. The tragedy is that even if you haven't been split up from your teenage boys and they still live with you, this is pretty much the level of interaction and conversation you can expect anyway!

    Beautifully observed lacunae

    marc nash

  15. A gut-wrenching and sad story...yet true to life of so many family relationships today. Excellently told.

  16. This was a difficult one to read. I can tell you from experience that thirteen is the very worst age, and you have really captured that disconnect here. It hurts my heart.

  17. Ugh. I know this whole situation too well. You describe it perfectly. It's absolutely heartbreaking.

  18. Good point John made... "closing themselves off is a defense mechanism against the hurt of distance." Seems to me someone told me that this happens. If they don't totally aknowledge you then THEY don't have to acknowledge the pain they feel. I myself will avoid thinking about things that make my heart ache.

  19. This was heartbreaking, but I think you've captured perfectly the pain of a mother who doesn't live with her children.
    And probably the general attitude of a 13 year old even if living in the same house, like Man Island said too :)

  20. That's a tug on the heartstrings! But maybe he's just an average teenager? I know I struggled to express myself during my teens.

  21. I sure hope this is fiction, Cathy. Regardless it must have been difficult to write. You've captured her despair well.

  22. Excellent choice of photo to go with the story. Between the ages of 12 to 19, I think of children as being in 'the dark years'. So to me your story has captured the essence of those dark years. Are they listening, do they care? The answer is yes. But you won't find that out until they turn 20.

  23. What a sad conversation. Such a shame her dog is the only one to appreciate her.

  24. This one really does tug at the heartstrings, even for someone like me who isn't a parent. I think we all have experiences of difficult family relationships, and you do a perfect job at capturing that.

  25. This was a heartbreaking story, Cathy. You put the reader right inside the mother's mind.

  26. This rings so sad and sounds so true.


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