After several calls throughout the day, I finally got an answer, but my mother clearly couldn't hear me. I wonder if she is holding the handset upside down. I called back and got her again. When I said my name she seemed to recognize me.
me: "Ma, how are the tulips doing?"
Ma (Sounding very puzzled): "My lips are OK."
Me: "The tulip bulbs in the clear base on your window sill. Are they blooming?"
Ma: "Bleeding? What's bleeding?"
ME: "Blooming. I'm wondering if your tulip bulbs have flowers yet?"
Ma: "But are you bleeding?"
Me: "No Ma, no one is bleeding. Do you have flowers in your room?"
Ma: "Oh yes! All the tulip buds opened up and they are beautiful!"
Me: "I am so glad. Since we have a bad phone connection, I'll say goodbye now and see you tomorrow!"
This conversation, such as it was, was carried on in full volume.
Ma went to the nursing home last week. It is 32 miles from me, but somehow I don't think we'll be staying in touch by phone. Greeting cards and personal visits will be my choice.
Maybe when I see her tomorrow I can observe how she holds the phone.