I saw the number on the caller ID as I was picking up the telephone. "Not now," I thought to myself as I put the portable back in the dock.
I continued with my day and didn't give the call another thought. I pushed it into the depths of my brain. When I returned home that evening the house was dark. I walked into the kitchen and saw the blinking yellow light that let me know I had a voicemail. A familiar voice asked me to call him. He needed to ask me something.
Maybe he'll forget and that will be that. But twice in one day? So out of character. Was something wrong? Self-reproach set in. The knot in my stomach twisted a little tighter.
I went to bed and hoped that my anxiety didn't shape my dreams. Peaceful sleep was all I needed. It was all I asked for.
I awoke, well rested. My angst was gone. My mind must have protected me by slamming shut a door. I gave no thought to the phone calls of the day before.
That next day was like every other; busy with motherly duties. As the usual dinner time chaos was ensuing, I tried to get my children seated and fed. I was a bit frazzled when the phone rang and I grabbed it in a rush.
"Hello?" I said breathlessly into the phone. I was trying to plate macaroni and cheese and not drop the phone that was pinned between my ear and my shoulder.
"Hey!" I heard the voice. The one that always stopped me dead in my tracks.
The door in my mind suddenly flew open.
"FUCK!" My head screamed. I handed Mr. Schmitty the pot and serving spoon. I rolled my eyes and headed up the stairs to my room.
"Hey dad. Sorry I didn't call you back. Kind of a crazy day." I told him, making excuses and explaining myself. I hated the words as they tumbled out of my mouth. I hated myself for feeling as though I HAD to say them.
"Yea--listen," he spoke over me, as he usually did, not even hearing my lame rationalizations. "Could you send me a postcard with directions to your house?"
"Um---sure." Thinking to myself that he had to be kidding me. He lives not thirty minutes from me, in an area he has lived in for more than fifty years.
"I'd like to come see the Grandkids before they are old enough to vote!" He said with a laugh.
Funny. My children know that their Grandpa is in heaven, unfortunately for them, the one that truly loves them can no longer be with them.
"Okay. Yea, sure. Stop by," I said but was really thinking, "Yea, sure. That will never happen."
We spoke for a few more minutes. I grew increasingly agitated. The tightness in my chest increased. I knew the conversation would be over soon, it never lasted long. But it always felt like an eternity.
"So, you'll send me that postcard, right? I love you baby." He said and I knew he had filled his guilt card for the time being. Because I KNOW that guilt is what prompts his sudden need for kinship.
"I love you too, dad." I answered back as I ended the call. I fell back on my bed and let the phone drop from my hand.
I love you too. My eyes welled up. I balled both of my hands into fists and slammed them down on the mattress like so many times I've done in my life. But this time they stay unharmed. They did not swell or bruise as they had when I was a teenager and it was a wall I was punching instead. It was no longer necessary to inflict pain to release the suffering.
Why can't he just stay away? It's so much easier for me when I don't hear from him. I'm too weak to escape for myself.
But my children---they will be spared.