Tonight's post is part of the Blogapalooz-Hour at ChicagoNow. At 9:00 bloggers get a topic. If we choose to participate, we have exactly one hour to write, edit and publish. The one hour rule must be honored. Ready or not it goes live at 10:00
The topic for this Wednesday's exercise is: Write about a person, place or thing that you miss.
This is an easy one. I miss my dad's phone calls.
The last one I entertained was a week before a Jewish guy offered last rites-with the goddamn bible clenched in his fists upside down. Of all the luck-the day dad needed to know he was headed where his catholic faith promised, the guy on call at hospice was Larry Feinstein.
Oh, well. You live. You learn.
I last talked to my father the Saturday following Thanksgiving. I was decorating for Christmas. He was in the hospital weak for the effects of chemo. He had been battling colon cancer for five years.
He said he was in for some hydration-and was hoping to be home sometime in the next week. He didn't sound himself, but he reassured me he was fine.
We drove to Phoenix the following Thursday-he had declined. Once we got to hospice, the dad I knew was gone. He died thirty-six hours later.
I most regret the distance between dad and I. There were many miles between us. But our phone calls kept us close. We talked at least once or twice a week.
We talked about anything and everything.
He called to talk sports. Any time the Bulls or the Bears or the Sox made a trade or a bad play, the phone rang. The voice on the other side would boom "can you believe this shit?"
He called before the Red Carpet of every Oscar show. The voice on the other side would boom "WHO are you wearing?" We'd fill the next half hour with back and forth about our picks for the big awards. Dad was a movie buff.
He called with his lists. Lists of movies and books he wanted to purchase. We had an account set up with borders.com. More than movies, he loved getting packages. I remember he wouldn't mind paying additional shipping to ensure he'd get more than one package. His weekly list always included at least ten items.
He called to find out "where the hell the goddamn movies I ordered" were.
He called to talk politics. "No goddamn way Emanuel is going to win that election". "No Way." Good thing he didn't live long enough to find out. THAT would have killed him for sure.
He called to see how the kids were. A month before he died, he called out of the blue. He wanted to know how they were doing in school. He wanted to make sure I had them involved in sports. His motto always was "you're either going to pay now or pay later, do yourself a favor-invest NOW".
He called a week before the last call. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I was elbows deep in list making. Kids had homework to finish. I let the phone ring. He called again. I let it ring. He called again. After ten. And, I remember his other motto growing up...if someone is calling after ten it's not good news.
Dad was jumpy. Said he was having a hard time sleeping. He was nervous and just wanted someone to talk to him. So I let him talk. I listened. I talked. He listened.
A half hour later he ended the call. He didn't want to bother me-he knew it was late.
I was grateful. I had lists, remember?
I wish I would have stayed on the phone. I wish I would have answered the first time. Hindsight tells me dad was scared. I regret not being there on the first ring.
We talked on Thanksgiving 2010. I was at my brother's house. We waited until after dinner to call Dad.
Dad did none of the calling on holidays. Only the answering.
He'd sit in his recliner with a clipboard with all of our names on it-and check them off as each kid called.
Each holiday he counted on six things-each in the form of a call. Nobody wanted to be last.
When you were one of the first callers it was like getting a gold star in the form of hearing about the SOBs who hadn't yet called.
John, Pete and I were the last three to call. And, lucky Lucy here was the last.
He was weak. No turkey for him that year-thanks to chemo and half a colon-a large diet coke from McDonalds was what he was what he was most thankful for.
I remember the calls like they were yesterday. And, I'd give my left arm to entertain just one more.
After dad died, a semi-truck full of his "stuff" arrived. Furniture-lamps-boxes filled with my share of his things.
One box contained SIX of his phones. Dad lived in a one-bedroom condo-but had a phone in every room. Bathroom, bedroom, front room, dining room, kitchen, porch.
I put the phones on the top shelf of my closet. One night when I was really missing him, one of the phones started chirping. Scared the shit out of me. The phones are now in the garage.
Since he died I unplugged my landline. I didn't want to hear it ring. I still don't.
I pay for a phone I never use. You see, I still have the last message dad left on my Comcast account.
"Hey, Beezie, it's Phoenix Station calling-want to get your take on this Sotomayor pick for the Supreme Court-call when time allows"
Whenever I miss him-I listen to that recording.
I listen to it a lot.
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