The caller ID displayed my family’s number. I answered cheerfully.
“Hi Mike,” my Mom greeted.
“Hi Mom. What’s up?”
“I have something to tell you that might upset you.”
No one – I repeat – no one ever wants to hear those words from their Mom. No one. I sat down, took a deep breath, and asked, “Okay, what’s going on?”
“Don’t be upset when I tell you, okay?”
How can I not be upset when you tell me it’s news that might upset me, I thought. It’s impossible. Whenever someone tells you that you might be upset, chances are, you’ll be upset. And even before telling me, I’m upset just knowing I’ll be upset.
It’s like saying: “Don’t look down.” What does everyone do when they hear those words? They look down. It’s a natural reaction. When someone tells you don’t to do something, you do it. We’re all stupid that way.
“What’s going on Mom?” I asked, voice a little shaken.
“Don’t be upset, okay?”
What did I just say?? Well, I didn’t say it out loud. If this was upsetting news, the last thing I wanted to do was add more upset to the conversation. I bit my tongue and tried not to imagine the worse. Unfortunately, trying not to imagine the worse means… yup… imagining the worst. Death, destruction, divorce, diarrhea, dysentery… what could it possibly be?
“Okay, I won’t be upset,” I lied. I really wanted to know. “What’s going on?”
“You know when you were home two weeks ago?”
Frantically, I reviewed my trip two weeks ago. Seemed like a normal & uneventful trip. Nothing crazy or disastrous happened. No drama of any kind. “Yea…?”
“Well, when you knelt down to tie your shoes, I noticed something…”
I head my breath. There was a tumor on the back of my neck. Blood was gushing out. Blackened skin adorned my neck.
“I saw the top of your head…” she continued.
I cleared my throat. The tumor was on my head. It had a face and eyes. It was my conjoined twin, finally bursting to life.
“Your hair is thinning Michael. I saw the top of your head and your hair is thinning. Right at the top of your head. Your hair. It’s thinning.”
“What?” I blinked. ” That’s it Mom?”
“Your hair! It’s thinning!”
“You got me all worked up for that?”
“Don’t be upset now! I told you not to be upset!”
“Mom. I’m not upset. I know my hair is thinning. I thought you called because something crazy happened back home, like someone died or is in the hospital. My gosh Mom… you scared me half to death…”
“So you’re not upset?” She almost sounded disappointed.
“No Mom, I’m not. I know my hair is thinning. I don’t really care. If it happens, it happens. Nothing I can do about it.”
“You can use Rogaine,” she countered.
“I don’t need that. If I go bald, so what? It’s natural. This isn’t something I can control.”
“Sure it is, with Rogaine.”
Good thing my Mom couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. “Rogaine doesn’t grow your hair back. Not that I’m an expert on that stuff or anything, but I heard it only keeps you from losing more hair or something.”
“Don’t you want to keep your hair?”
“Mom.” I took a deep breath. “Am I going to be the same person with or without hair?”
“So why does it matter?”
“Yea… So you’re not upset. That’s good, that’s good.”
“I think you’re more upset than I am.”
She chuckled uneasily. “I just called to tell you that. That’s all. I am glad you are not upset.”
“Thanks Mom. I think. Don’t worry, I’m fine. This is natural. Thanks for… uh… calling to tell me about this.”
“Sure sure.” She paused. “Are you sure you don’t want Rogaine?”
“Good bye Mom.”
“Okay okay. Bye bye. Take care of your hair!”
And with a Click she hung up.