My mother needed her Christmas card list updated because - well there's no gentle way to put it - her friends keep dying. Since I printed her address labels the year after my dad died, the maintenance of her Christmas card list is a job that now belongs to me.
I thought it would make things simpler if I printed up a paper version of the labels and sent it to my mom so she could make her corrections and mail it back to me.
But no, she insisted we do it by phone. This morning she called with her changes. I held my copy of the printed labels while my mother held hers, and we proceeded to discuss each and every one of the 45 names listed, whether they needed changing or not.
Mother: Mrs. John Bonham, yes that's right because John died two years ago so it is correct it's just her. And okay Mrs. Richard Burke, that's good, that's still correct. Mrs. Jill Carlin, yes that's fine.
Me: Mother, can you just tell me the ones that aren't correct? Perhaps that would make things go quicker?
Mother: Oh, okay, you prefer to do it that way?
Me: Yes, yes I would.
Mother: All right. Susie Callahan moved. Didn't I tell you that? I swear I remember telling you that. You see she felt like the house was just too big for her after Jim died and so she moved into a smaller place that's closer to her daughter Jennifer. Jennifer is so helpful the way she comes over to Susie's house each week and cleans and pays her bills for her and takes her to all her doctor appointments. . . "
Me: Yes, yes, Jennifer is a wonderful daughter. I'm glad things are working out. But can you please just tell me Susie's new address?
Mother: Oh, sure, sure. Didn't I give it to you already? But wait, before I forget, take off Karen Russell.
Me: Why? Did she die?
Mother: No, no. But she never sends me a card so take her off. And take off Evelyn Stoner, she stopped sending me cards too. Well she sent a couple, so I put her back on the list, but then a few years passed and she stopped again. So let's just take her off. And take off Corinne Johnson - she's been dead for months. And Marilyn Stanich too.
Me: Wait, I thought Marilyn had Alzheimer's? She didn't die - she's still alive right?
Mother: Yes. But, she has gotten quite a bit worse. Even if she remembers who I am, she forgets to send me a card in return, so let's take her off then.
Me: Just because she has Alzheimer's? Are you punishing her because she's sick? Don't you think she'd enjoy a card even if she doesn't know who it's from? She might even enjoy it more than other people because each day she'll think it's a new card!
Mother: Oh, all right, fine, keep her on the list then. It just seems like a big waste of money if she doesn't have any idea who I am or where the card came from. But, that's fine, you're probably right.
But do take off Evelyn Wagoner. She did finally die. She had been battling Parkinson's for quite some time. Her daughter Noreen had her move in to her house and she took care of her. But of course she had quite a large house down in Newport and her three children were all grown, not like yours . . . And you have the Mosengs in Norway on there, right? There address is 5332 Tveeterassvien, Bergen . . .
Me: Mother, we are looking at the very same list. If you're reading the address off the list, then it's a safe bet that I have it too.
Mother: Well you don't need to be sarcastic.
Me: I'm sorry. Okay, is that it? No one else died? No one else to punish for failing to send you a card? Cause I could make these changes and get the labels in the mail later today.
Mother: Oh, no need to rush. I don't ever send cards this early. Although I do need to send the international ones right away. You could send those labels to me.
Me: Mother, they're on the same sheet of labels. They all print at one time. I will send them today.
Mother: Thank you. Do you need me to reimburse you for the labels? I'm happy to pay for them.
Me: No, mother that's fine. Consider the two sheets of labels an early Christmas gift.
Mother: Well, thank you. Are you sure? Because I could write you a check.