This time of year is always hard for me – full of highs and lows, celebrations and mourning. My dad died in between my kids’ birthdays. Maybe it happened that way for a reason. Because having a newborn and a not-quite two-year-old kept me from finding solace in a bottle of Ketel and a pack of Parliaments. Avery being physically dependent on me to grow and thrive made me pull myself together in a way that I might not have otherwise. Now that they’re older, having pool parties and trips to Disneyland to enjoy, as bookends to my least favorite day of the year, keeps my sadness at bay a bit.
Remember when you could hold your cell phone while driving? In those days, my dad was usually the person on the other end of the line. I used my commute to check in with my parents, alternating between my mom and dad, depending the day.
Although my mom and I are close, if there was something really big going on in my life, I would call my dad. If it was good news, he’d be so happy for me that I could hear it through the phone. If it was bad, his soothing voice made me instantly feel better. If I just wanted to chat, he’d do that too, telling me about work or the great deal he got at Costco that day.
So often lately, I’ve wanted to call my dad. I so desperately want to hear his voice. I want to tell him crazy work stories or the latest thing Clay did in school. But it’s been five years since I was able to do that.
I wish I could remember what our last phone conversation was about, but I had a two-week-old baby, so it’s all a blur. I do remember talking a bit about his plan to come to California in a couple weeks, after he finished a big work project. No big deal, I thought, I’d see him soon and talk to him the next day.
Except I never did. The phone call didn’t come from him the next day. It came in the form of many missed calls from my mom and brother and then a conversation with my brother that ended with me on the floor of my bedroom, in shock.
I don’t talk on the phone much now. Maybe not being able to talk to my dad took the fun out of it. I could always picture his smile on the other end. His support, pride and love oozed through the phone.
My brother called me this week. We talk almost every day, but usually through text or instant message and rarely on the phone. I had a ton of things I should have been doing when he called, but I ignored the laundry and the dishes. And just chatted. Shared what was going on in my life – good and bad. Maybe he knew. Maybe it was coincidence. Maybe I have a new phone buddy.
I’m thankful for the 31 years of great conversation I had with my dad. He was my biggest cheerleader and his silly stories (about getting shot in the foot and almost catching his house on fire) sometimes made me laugh until I cried.
Call your parents today. Call them every day. Sometimes you just sit on the other end of the phone in silence when they’re telling boring stories about their colleagues and neighbors you don’t even know. Other times they give you advice, telling you everything is going to be okay when you feel like your world is falling apart – then when they’re gone you’ll feel like it really is.
Five years in, I’m doing better. But I’d still do anything for one last phone call…