Photo: Found in NYC Found
by Ryan Forsythe
Mom had been dead for six days when her first email arrived. I was on the phone with Kathy and all of a sudden…Ping. “You’ve got mail.” I transferred the phone to the other shoulder and clicked on the email. It was one of those e-greeting things and said, “You have received an e-greeting card from YOUR MOM. Click here to read this card.”
“What the—“ Kathy heard me say.
“What is it, Bryan?”
“I don’t know. It might be someone’s sick joke. Or my mom just sent me an email.”
I clicked the link and soon I was staring at a graphic of a dancing penguin, with a message in flashing red letters. I hung up on Kathy. And read:
“Dearest Bryan. Be careful about any spending you will be doing—resist the impulse to buy the first thing you see and instead do some comparison shopping. Friends will play an important role in your everyday life for the next several weeks. Play your hunches. Love, Mom.” The penguin was a strange touch. Mom was more into clowns. But the words were definitely Mom. I read it again and decided the penguin was perhaps not too strange for Mom. She wasn’t big into technology and probably wouldn’t have spent too much time perusing the e-greeting site looking for a clown. If there was a cute penguin on the first page of choices, I think she would have gone with it.
It was a little unsettling, this horoscope from the grave. But that’s what Mom did. Write horoscopes, I mean, not send them from the cemetery. At least I don’t think she made a habit of it. If she had, no one told me.
I read the note again.
I shuddered wondering if she knew I was planning to buy that digital camera the next day. She couldn’t know this, could she? Was she watching me from somewhere, reminding me to comparison shop? Perhaps more unsettling was that line, “Click here to respond to YOUR MOM with an e-greeting.” If I responded, was there a chance she’d get it?
No, I told myself. That’s just silly. Mom’s six feet under over at Maple Hill Cemetery. I saw it myself. Still, I clicked on the button anyway. And soon I had selected a graphic of a smiling clown holding a balloon. But then the balloon flies away and his smile turns upside down. I started to type… “Mom? I just got your email…” But then I laughed at myself and closed out of the internet.
Before the stroke, Mom wrote all the Carterville Weekly-Tribune horoscopes for the past twelve years. Even when we were on our semi-annual trips to Granny Shirley’s in Fort Lauderdale, she would call them in.
I used to sit at the top of the stairs and listen in. I can still picture her sitting at Granny’s kitchen table, cigarette in hand, talking loudly into the phone, even voicing the punctuation aloud. “Next, Aquarius. A major accomplishment at work will be rewarded. Period. Talk over career plans with someone you consider a mentor. Period. If you are well prepared. Comma. The results will be obvious. Period. Make an effort to stay in contact with a few old friends with whom you’ve shared much. Period. Okay, now Capricorn…”
I began to study horoscopes myself. When I was ten, other boys were drawing pictures of army tanks or racecars and the girls were writing Eddie Rini’s name in their notebooks. But I was writing horoscopes. I still remember my first: “Extra time on homework during the first part of the month will be rewarded. Consider asking for a raise in your allowance, if you think it’s deserved. Don’t fight with your brother.”
Never mind that I didn’t have a brother.
And now, twenty-five years later, I’m receiving horoscopes from my dead mother. Yes, horoscopes plural. Seven days after the first, another arrived. This time, accompanied by a lone carousel horse, bobbing up and down on its pole, the message in blue:
“Dearest Bryan. Any pressure in the workforce will be alleviated with cheerful perseverance. It’s an especially good time to get in touch with friends, even those who live far away. Don’t make financial decisions before the fifteenth. Love, Mom.”
Staring at it, I realized the day. It was Friday, deadline day for the Weekly-Trib. Every week Mom had to have her column in by Friday. And here she was sending me a horoscope on Friday. Was there a message in this? Did she want me to pass this along?
But no, that didn’t make sense. She was only sending me one horoscope, not twelve. The messages were meant for me.
At the office, Mr. Dwyer found me the following Tuesday. He told me not to worry about getting caught up right away, he understood that people can’t be expected to just move on with their lives so soon after the death of a parent. I thanked him and said it shouldn’t affect my work. In fact, I was caught up by the end of the day. Was that cheerful perseverance?
I got another message the following Friday, but by that week, I was ready for it. I sat at my desk all day, waiting for Mom’s message. Kathy came by once to see if I wanted to go to Target. I told her I couldn’t, I was waiting for the weekly email from my Mom.
“Bryan. Listen to what you’re saying.”
“Your mother died. I know it’s hard, but—“
“I’m not stupid, Kathy. I know she’s gone. But just because someone’s dead doesn’t mean they can’t email me—.”
“You’ve got mail.” The computer. Kathy glared at me, and I back at her.
“Are you going to get that?” she asked, before turning and walking out.
This time the graphic was the smiling clown with a balloon—the same one I was going to send her.
Once again I read, “You have received an e-greeting card from YOUR MOM. Click here to read this card.” And once again, I clicked.
“Dearest Bryan. It’s time to assert yourself and air your own ideas. Don’t let jealousy and possessiveness undermine your primary love relationship. Tell your love exactly what’s on your mind, for the deep feelings you have need to be shared. Relax and recoup in the evening. Love, Mom.”
So she did search around for a clown. But she didn’t think that first note deserved a clown. Maybe this one held extra meaning for her. I re-read it. And then I saw it. What Mom was trying to tell me. Don’t let jealousy and possessiveness undermine my primary love relationship.
I thought: Don’t worry, Mom. I won’t let Kathy’s jealousy undermine my love relationship. With you.
Yes, it was time to assert myself and not let Kathy dictate my life. After Kathy returned with a garden hose that looked more expensive than necessary and a rice cooker that we clearly didn’t need, she asked if I was ready to head out for our usual Friday night dinner and a movie.
“Dinner is okay,” I said. “But I’m going to relax and recoup in the evening.”
“Recoup from what? You’ve been sitting at home all day.”
I repeated. “I am going to relax and recoup in the evening.”
The next morning, I wondered again about emailing Mom. I mean, sure, she was dead. But then it wouldn’t hurt anyone to send an e-greeting in response. I tried to remember the formula she used. In each horoscope, she always tried to cover three of five things. They were work/career, love/romance, money/finances, family/friendship, and miscellaneous other (such as luck, health, balance, hunches, future, etc.).
She had this whole table worked out, so she wouldn’t include the same exact ones for the same sign two weeks in a row, or for two different signs in the same week. If Pisces got work, love, and money, then Sagittarius might get career, friendship, and health. And Leo might get love, money, and the future, while Taurus read about family, romance, and luck.
What did I want to tell her about? With her death and all, it looked like work and romance and even health were out of the question. Nothing to say there. Perhaps something about family.
“What are you doing?” It was Kathy. I didn’t hear her come in.
“I’m writing a—”
“My god, you’re emailing a dead person!”
“Hey, my mom is not just any dead person. And she’s only been dead for a month.”
“Listen to yourself!”
“Listen to me? You’re the one, Kathy, who’s buying the first thing you see and not comparison shopping.”
She threw her hands in the air and walked out. I shouted after her, “And don’t make any financial decisions before the fifteenth!” Take that.
She kept walking, but shouted back to me, “Today is the fifteenth!” Whatever, Miss Money Bags. Back to my writing:
“Dearest Mom. If you are in the right place at the right time, a visit from a relative will lift your spirits this week. Take time to enjoy a much-deserved rest. Love, Bryan”
I completed the note and hit the preview button. Yep, it looked good. The site asked if I wanted to send it immediately or on another day. I chose to send it immediately, but regretted it after I hit the button.
How many times had Mom gone to this site and created a card for me, only to press the button to send on a different day, knowing I would get them after she died? Knowing the delayed gratification I would continue to receive. And I couldn’t do the same. Sorry, Mom. I decided that the next time I would set it to send at a later time, maybe a month or two down the road.
I wandered to the cemetery and sat down by her stone. I thought about Mom spending her last few days on the computer, writing out horoscopes. They’d have to end eventually, wouldn’t they? This just couldn’t go on forever. Could they?
Well, it is now six months later and they’re still coming. Every Friday. Kathy and I have been through for almost five months now. But I’m not worried about that. Just yesterday, Mom sent me another note. She wrote, “A new romance will soon come your way.”