Over the years, and after I left the town I grew up in, I would call the old lady on the telephone. She was much better at talking on the phone than the old man ever was. My visits with the old lady had become visits through the telephone and my visits with the old man were still in person, although they were less frequent. Which got to me. Because as time went on, I missed those visits.
My phone conversations with the old man’s wife were good ones. We talked about so many things from such a variety of perspectives. She and the old man had such wonderful conversations, many of which she would share with me. Each and every time I called her, I would look forward to what I was going to learn. And this went on well into my twenties.
One thing she impressed upon me rather strongly was how I could learn something from whomever I chose to spend my life with. She told me to trust my own judgment and once I had, to listen to the person I decided to be with. She had and she was thankful for learning about many of the old man’s experiences. Experiences which I tried to pull from her, but which were never shared. I was told that I’d have to wait for the old man to discuss certain things with me.
I asked her on a number of occasions why the old man was keeping secrets. I asked her why he would do that to me, especially since he – they – had told me so much already. She said,
“Son, he has a way of doing things. He has his reasons. There are some things I haven’t learned until recently and I’m his wife. There are some things I’m glad he waited to tell me.”
I never knew what to think when she said things like that. I never knew what to make of her double talk and at times I wondered if what she was telling me were true. But, I would always come around to remind myself of my trust for these people because these were the very people who helped influence who I had become.
We talked a lot, the old lady and me. We talked a lot on the phone.
But there were times when my calls weren’t taken, either ignored on purpose or for some other reason. A reason I know now, but didn’t know at the time. There were times when I would call and the phone would just ring and ring. It would ring and no one would answer.
When I did get hold of the old lady in the days that followed those unanswered calls, she never mentioned why she didn’t answer. We would just talk as we always had and neither of us would mention anything was amiss. She started, however, to say things I didn’t want to hear.
“You know son, I’m getting ready to leave you now. I’m getting ready to leave you. You need to believe me, because I’m ready to leave you.”
I would get quiet and tell her that she wasn’t going anywhere. I knew what she was talking about and I didn’t want to hear any more about it. I had grown a deep affection for this woman and to hear her talk like this hurt me. It hurt me deeply.
But there were times when she wouldn’t stop telling me she was going to leave the old man and me. She told me that he was ready for it, but I wasn’t and her job was to get me ready. I never wanted to hear her talk like this, so I usually tried to change the subject, but she would end up changing it back.
She told me that she wanted me to trust her and that things would be okay. She told me that she had been ready for what was waiting for her for a long time now and that the only thing holding her back was me. She needed to know that I would be all right.
And as the old lady and I talked, a sort of desperation grew in her voice. I heard the cracking on the other end of the phone. I heard her voice breaking into something I hadn’t yet heard from her. She kept asking for me to trust her. She kept asking for me to let her go, which I couldn’t do. As you can well imagine.
My calls were being taken more sporadically than ever, probably about half the number of times they were when I had first started calling her. I knew why, too, which drove me nearly insane.
There were times when I would call and the phone on the other side wasn’t answered – it would ring twenty to thirty times – and I would slam the phone down and scream at it. I would hammer that phone down and lose myself in tears because I knew what was happening. I would slam the phone down and sit for hours wondering how things would change in just a short time.
I continued to call. And eventually, my calls weren’t answered at all.