If I did not pick up her calls, she would call the dorm management office or the academic secretary’s office. The dorm management office, academic secretary’s office, and even the Deputy Dean knew my mother. She had a reliable agent network.
Mom called me when I was away in other states or abroad. Once, while in Paris, I visited the famous Pantheon, housing the remains of great Frenchmen in the crypt stone sarcophagi. I walked the dark, quiet corridors of the crypt, and suddenly a call came—my mother from Brooklyn!
“How are you doing, son?”
Suddenly Dumas, Hugo, Joliot-Curie, and other famous French politicians, writers, and generals all arose and approached me. They each took my cell phone and replied to my mother:
“Madam Shapiro, bonjour. This is Victor Hugo. Your son is okay, he is doing just fine,” and Hugo passed the phone on to Alexandre Dumas to confirm that I was well and good.
However, mother developed dementia, and one day she did not call me and did not ask “how are you doing?” The evening was approaching, it was getting dark, and the first stars appeared in the sky, but my mother still was not calling.
I always believed that everything in the world could change. A war could start, or the stock market could crash, a cyclone could level houses and drown whole regions in rainfall, but no matter what happened my mother would find a way to call me and ask, “How are you doing?”
However, on that day she did not call. She forgot my phone number. She even forgot that she forgot to call me.
I matured ten years that day. With each passing day of her illness, the whole family— Leah, my dad, and I—all matured ten years.