Monday, September 22, 2014

Calls and Responses

Some people who don’t live with their parents check in with their parents by phone every day. When there are no grandchildren or childcare situations in the picture. When no parties involved are facing any crisis, frailty, or major life event. When walking down a crowded street, six inches behind another person:

“I ate a quesadilla earlier. It had chicken, mushrooms, spinach, cheese. Maybe Monterey Jack? Or Cheddar? I can’t remember. Now it’s gonna bother me. You’re so right, dad, I should pull up the menu online. I’ll Google it later and call you when I do. I haven’t talked to you or mom since yesterday, you don’t love me anymore. I really want a muffin right now even though it’s after 6 p.m. Is that weird? Have you ever wanted breakfast at night? Two joggers are running toward me and I thought one was barefoot, but her sneakers are just lightweight and flesh-toned. Can you believe I turn 28 in 10 weeks? How does it feel to have a 28-year-old child? Not great?! Put mom on so I can ask her how it feels to have a 28-year-old child. Hi mom. You’re right, you don’t have a 28-year-old child yet so it is premature to ask until the day you do! My left elbow kind of hurts right now, you guys.”

Ever since I left the nest at 17, I’ve usually talked to my parents once a week, on the same day, during the same time block. These days, I talk to my dad on Sunday nights between 7 and 10. In between Sundays we often email back and forth, and nobody is unhappy with this arrangement.  Even as a teenager, I couldn’t stand constant phone chatter, the constant ringing.

If you want to see me slip into panic mode, get my dad to phone me outside of our appointed hour(s). This ends up happening several times a year. At 10 a.m. one Saturday, my phone rang and his name popped up. Someone died, I thought. Someone else. Here comes another turning point, while I’m sitting in this tawdry smoothie café. My heart pounded, continued pounding as he said hello in a serious tone, and only stopped pounding when he asked whether I received the year’s supply of ballpark mustard he shipped after I told him I couldn’t find it anywhere locally.

Last night, he didn’t answer his phone between 7 and 10. I went through every possibility in my head, almost texting my brother that we may have an emergency on our hands, almost texting a few others to please respect my privacy at this time, until he finally picked up at 10:02.

1 comment:

  1. For years after my father's death (30 years ago), I dreamed that I was in a phone booth, trying to phone him. I would dial and dial, over and over, but the connection never went through. I usually had this dream shortly before the alarm went off, but I would have awakened without the clock--very disturbed and in a cold sweat. I don't think I would ever be interested in visiting someone who purports to reach the "other side," but I must admit that I understand the impulse to consult such a person.