Sorry, Wrong Number?

cordless phone by televisionThe phone rang. My husband and I were in the middle of dinner and a movie, so we let the answering machine pick up, as usual. We expected that it was one of the dinner-time callers who repeatedly tried to connect with us even though we registered on the Do Not Call list.

“Hey Mom. I’m sorry I missed Mother’s Day and your birthday. I just wanted to let you know I got home safely.”

A huge smile swelled in me because I was delighted to hear from my son, and thrilled that he decided that talking with me was important enough to use a telephone. Sometimes he contacted me on Mother’s Days and my birthdays, but it was never a big deal when he didn’t. I hadn’t heard his voice since he visited five months earlier. His deep bass tones surprised me, like they did when he last visited. I was still used to his boyish tones. I dashed to pick up the phone before he finished leaving his message.

He sounded relaxed, smooth, and genuine. His words seemed to come from a deep place within him. I hoped that this indicated that he was feeling secure and calm. This might mean that the storm of adolescence was relaxing its grip on him as he transformed into a young adult. I felt relieved to not hear the familiar tension and uncertainty restraining the words coming through his throat. His voice may have betrayed the effects of drugs, but he spoke clearly enough for me to feel somewhat confident while I dismissed that worry.

He told me that he was organizing a Freedom Concert in St. Petersburg, Florida. I knew that he had liked driving to the southeastern states during college breaks, so I felt glad for him. I knew that he enjoyed organizing events, and wondered if this was like one of the beer binge bashes that he had coordinated before, or a more respectable festival that promoted one of the nonprofit groups that he supported. He said that he was afraid to tell me about it because he didn’t know if I agreed with that kind of cause. I wondered what the cause might be. Freedom. Concert. When have I ever been opposed to freedom or concerts?

He sounded so cautious, I urged him to send me something about it. He responded with surprise, and said that he would. I told him that it didn’t matter if I agreed with the cause; I cared about him, and wanted to know about what he was doing, whatever it might be. He sounded surprised again when he thanked me.

To drive my point home, I told him that I was really glad that he called, and that I loved him so much. Pause. He said that I didn’t know how much that meant to him. I nearly cried. Poor kid. What had he been going through that such words would make such a difference? He said, “I love you too, sweetie.” My son never called me “sweetie” before. Again, I considered that he was stoned out of his mind, or maybe someone was impersonating him while he laughed in the background.

I felt sad for my son. Poor me. I was so eager to have that kind of conversation with him, that I deliberately chose to take a chance on being wrong about whom I was talking with. I decided to enjoy it, rather than admit my skepticism. My heart wanted the caller to be my son. I wanted him to call me to chit-chat this openly, and find that I loved him more than he realized.

I wanted him to let me know when he had any doubts about being precious.

He asked me how my work was going, and quickly added that he wouldn’t want to be in my shoes. I laughed and wondered what he meant, but just continued to listen.

He told me that he missed me. I let a little skepticism slip in.

I asked about the earthquake that I felt earlier that day. The epicenter was near where he lived. He said that he was still working until 3 in the morning sometimes, so might not have felt it. I wondered what he might have been doing at 3 in the morning when he worked at a store that kept him very busy during regular business hours. More skepticism slipped in. I asked him to tell me about what his work was like.

Then I heard that moment of silence that indicated that his call waiting was signaling him, and he said, “Dad is calling me. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.” This didn’t surprise me at all: my son always responded quickly when his father wanted his attention, and his father always kept phone calls short.

When I let go of the phone, I immediately went to my computer to look up the Freedom Concert. I found that it was raising money for an African Socialist food bank. How sad that anyone would think that their mother would object, to such a degree that he would be afraid to tell her about his involvement in such a project.

My husband and I replayed the answering machine message several times, debating whether it was my son’s voice.

No call back. I wished I had caller ID so that I might have been able to resolve this mystery for certain.

A few days later, I texted my son to ask if he had heard of the Freedom Concert in Florida. He said no. I asked him if he had called me lately. He said no. I told him about the phone call, and he responded, “LOL”. I told him that I loved him, and he said, of course he knew it.

I am writing this for the young man who called me, and for his mother. Imagine how he felt when he heard someone whom he thought was his mother tell him that she loved him; how he felt when I responded to him with an unexpected amount of caring. I thank my lucky stars that I don’t remember ever struggling with expressing my love for my son, even when he didn’t seem to regret doing things that I didn’t like. More than ever, I am savoring that my son and I connect monthly. Texting is keeping us connected better than any other means is likely to.

Imagine if the other son called his mother, expecting her to respond the same way that I did. Imagine that he moved her to say, “I love you more than you ever imagined,” and, “I’d love to hear about the African Socialist food bank.”

Imagine if she rose to his expectations.

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28 thoughts on “Sorry, Wrong Number?

  1. dearest Grace, thank you so much for this “telephone” moment…one of our sons is just now reconnecting and our hearts swell at the luxury of his voice and thoughts…and your experience is
    heart wrenching to know of the “other” boy and the waiting for your own boy sometimes….these are exquisite times with technology and also confusing….i grew up with the ancient sensibilities of regular cards and letters…and i know that era is almost over….so thank you thank you for bringing us this very tender story and your hearts…..we send you much care and songs of love from these trails.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judith! I am so glad to see you here again! Big hugs!

      I, too, miss the tactile experience of holding a letter that someone wrote, and seeing the strokes of the pen. I have never known the experience of a stable community where people only carry spoken messages, like the time before mail and mass transportation. I like the instant communication, and ability to broadcast messages to all who want to pay attention, whether that be in person or via technology.

      I send blessing energy to all of you, especially your son.

      Like

  2. This is so eerie, as I’ve had a few “chance” encounters over the past few days and today in visiting other blogs, writers are talking about their “chance” encounters. I don’t believe in luck or chance as everything happens for a reason. Geez, I was so wrapped up in your story I didn’t even realize the title until after the fact. This young man was blessed to have spoken with you. Powerful!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Stephanae! I’m glad that you had the “chance” to read what I wrote. How wonderful that you are surrounded by serendipitous stories.

      I hope the young man feels blessed by the phone call with me. I hope the effect rippled to his mother. I feel blessed by the phone call because I, too, believe that everything happens for a reason. The way that I responded taught me something that I needed to know.

      I hope that you are enjoying “chance” encounters that are bumping into you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Grace–this is my favorite piece of yours to date, and absolutely bowled me over. Both in writing style and subject matter. I think you should submit this to all literary and commercial publications and I think mothers, young and old will cry like I just did. There is universal truth and pain here –Even if they don’t have a son who moved to Tokyo and never once acknowledged Mother’s Day and their 50th bday. This was uncanny timing for me to read, btw. Hugs… steph

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m bowled over by your praise, Stephanie. I’m afraid that I’ll need a staff to submit this piece to all publications. I’ll be glad to submit it to one, if you’ll suggest one, and give me some ideas for how to polish it.

      I’ll have to add a photo of a box of tissues to the bottom of the post. I need it after reading about your son. I can imagine how hard that hit you. As Judith put it, above, may you enjoy the “luxury of his voice and thoughts” soon. I understand that two days that come and go with so little fanfare for me can mean a great deal to others. And vice versa.

      Hugs, my dear Steph.

      Like

  4. I read this before bed last night and was very touched by how you handled this and by what you wrote. I didn’t post a comment because I was trying to put some thoughts together about your experience.

    My middle daughter had an experience similar to this when she was in high school. My mom lived with us for several years until she passed away-she was a godsend and helped me out a lot with my daughters while I was at work. My daughter came home from school hungry one afternoon, and Grandma was out so she called her on the cellphone to ask if she could eat the leftovers in the refrigerator.

    The conversation started something like “Hey Grandma, can I have the rest of your burrito?” The woman on the other line happened to be a grandma too, and she and my daughter ended up having a short but very sweet conversation. My daughter said she will always remember the experience. I hope this other mother’s son does the same and keeps your loving words with him always.

    I really believe that quantum entanglement also works through human beings. We are all connected to each other somehow. We can only hope that there are more people in the world like you!

    I saw this on another blog post and thought I’d pass it along from http://annerallen.blogspot.com/

    CHICKEN SOUP – HEARTFELT STORIES BY MOMS Pays $200 for 1,200 words. Stories can deal with the pains and highlights of motherhood, the wonders of parenting grandchildren, special moments of raising a newborn, being a role model to a teenager, or anything that touches the heart of a mom. Deadline September 30.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your generous kindness, and entangling your life with mine.

      Anne R. Allen looks like a great resource. I don’t see the Moms’ book listed at Chicken Soup website, so perhaps they changed their mind? or got such an enthusiastic response, they closed for entries? I see that they published a Mothers & Sons book in 2008. That would be a GREAT fit! Maybe they’ll do another edition…

      Thanks for sharing your story about your daughter and her “new grandmother”. How sweet! I think it is very important for people to experience such random kindness.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You’re terrific. I saw the Hope and Miracles title, but thought of it as appealing to ideas of divine intervention that are more conventional than this. You remind me that Chicken Soup doesn’t always stick to conventional meanings of their titles. I will work on that one, and keep you posted. Will you help me polish my story before I submit it?

          No apology needed for not following the links through to the final destination. I’m sure that Anne posted the link carefully, and that Chicken Soup “broke it” in the meantime.

          See you later today at Saturday Scenes.

          Like

  5. Hi Grace, I was moved by your experience and your candid re-telling of it. Whether it is divine intervention or not, I hope the caller felt the love you were pouring out. Thank you for sharing it – I know that this story will haunt me for sometime. Did you hear from the Chicken Soup people? By the way, I love the, ‘Weaving your thoughts together,’ sub banner. I’m following you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wendy I am delighted that you are strolling around here. Thank you for enjoying this story. It continues to haunt me, too, and I’m looking for time so I can submit it to more publications. No. No word from Chicken Soup.

      I hope that you enjoy the day ahead of you

      Like

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