Five Routine Minutes: A Long Distance CallPosted: March 18, 2013 A little background on this one. While I was in college, my family moved away. I wrote about the sordid details here. You should go look, I’ll wait. Welcome back. My mother and I had a conversation last week about my life in Maryland after the family had moved on to North Carolina. This was one of the stories I told her.
During the last year and a half of my time in college, I lived with a family who had a home a few miles from campus. They had a spare bedroom for rent. The university matched us up and it worked for both sides. Steve, Claire and their kids were very good to me.
This was in the early eighties, so there are a couple of things that are important to know. I shared the house phone, which was in the kitchen. This was in the pre-cell phone era, so I’d talk to my parents once a week or so. Long distance calls were expensive. I couldn’t afford many of them if I wanted to pay for things like school, rent, food and dates.
Also, I had a mustache. My mustache has nothing to do with the story. But, as a visual artist, I know that you’ll see the difference in how I portray myself in this post.
During this time, my grandfather was very ill. His time was short. I’d been to visit him and was back in school for about two weeks. My routine was back to normal, but grandpa and my mom were on my mind.
One morning, I slept in later than usual. There were no classes on my schedule until close to lunch time and I’d worked late the night before. The phone rang in the kitchen.
Claire answered it. I could hear her talking as I dozed. Then she called up the stairs – “Oma, your mom’s on the phone. Are you up?” My mind started racing as soon as she said it was my mom.
There was no doubt what this call was. I jumped out of bed, put on my glasses and zipped down stairs.
Claire knew about my grandfather’s condition. She handed me the phone, touched my arm and mouthed, “I’m sorry”. But when she did it, she had the oddest look on her face. It was almost like she was stifling a laugh.
I stood in the kitchen and consoled my mother over the phone. We discussed arrangements, then I went upstairs to take a shower. By the time I came back down, Claire had taken another call from my family and gotten my flight arrangements. She even offered to drop me off at the airport.
On the way to the airport, I had a disturbing realization. I was asleep when the phone rang. Claire called me and I jumped out of bed. There was something missing in that sequence. There was only one way to clear up my concern.
This horrified me. I offered to move out. Claire would have none of that. She told me she knew I would never have stood around in the kitchen in jockey shorts on purpose. When I came back home, she and Steve both went out of their way to make me feel welcome.
They also got in their share of jokes until the day I graduated.