Memorable Dates— and Phone Calls I’ll Never Forget
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
I’ve always had this weird thing for dates. Calendar dates, that is. If the General singles me out and asks me what he said five seconds ago, well, hell if I know. He’ll probably think I was sitting there thinking about sex instead of hanging on his every word. But ask me about a specific day in my past, and I’ll tell you things about it that go back to my wee childhood.
Aislinn tells me she saw an acquaintance of mine while shopping last weekend and wonders when we first met.
“January 8th,” I tell her. “About 4:10 p.m. At my house. It was a Saturday, but I’d heard all about her on the previous Monday night, which was the 3rd. And I first heard of her on the 3rd of November of the previous year when—”
“Mommy!!! Sheesh. How do you do that?” Hey, she asked. I told her.
I don’t know. I can’t help it—I’m just wired that way— but I’m only now beginning to realize how truly unique this, um, ability is and how a single glance at the calendar can conjure all sorts of things, both embarrassing and sweet. And sometimes truly insignificant, too.
Today I glanced at the calendar, just the first two weeks of February, and my gaze spanned the blocks of days, each one with at least a couple of hidden meanings. An incredible evening with a new friend, the day the girls and I froze to death in the icy rain as we sawed a limb off an oak on the farm and my bare feet were so cold in the tall grass that I didn’t feel the briars I stepped on, Granddaddy’s birthday that would have been 101 candles this year, The Incomparable Maggie Shayne’s birth- day, the decision to go on a particular diet I loved, various ex-in-laws’ birthdays, a business trip to Minneapolis where my co-worker turned me in for having a business dinner with the contractor/enemy and didn’t hang around to notice that I got a receipt for the dinner I bought myself, the night Melissa left me hanging online for 45 minutes, The Treat’s birthday, a particularly distressing walk I took with my ex, the birthday of a little red-haired boy I knew in the fourth grade, effing Valentine’s Day….
Talk about my life flashing before my eyes!
…But then my memory lights briefly on the one particular date last year and I find myself back in time there, feeling sheepish and uneasy and, Gods, so like a teenager…which wasn’t very pleasant!
It’s the night before The Treat’s birthday, and I call to wish him a happy birthday before I head out of town for a couple of days. I call the home phone number he gave me a few weeks ago. I let the phone ring six times and decide to give up, thinking he’s probably having to work late again or he got called in or maybe he’s playing his guitar and can’t hear the phone.
Drat. I really want wish him a happy birthday before I leave town. He’s been going through a rough time, and I want to be the first to wish him a wonderful day. We went out to dinner a week or so ago and he’s missed dinner at my house since then because of a problem with his landlord, so I’m not sure when I’ll see him again and I want to surprise him.
I’m the one who gets surprised. Someone answers his home phone…and it’s a woman.
A million things flutter through my head at this moment. None of them pleasant. I totally did not expect it. I may have teased him about being a player but I really didn’t think he was and I’m shocked at the idea that, while he and I were having very frank and intimate discussions on the phone, he might have a girlfriend. Or at least a woman who’s proprietary enough to- ward him to answer his phone.
Then that self-sabotaging side of me takes over, and I think, “Lorna, you dummy. Of course, there’s a woman in his home. Why wouldn’t there be? This is a man who never has to be alone unless he wants to be. He’s newly divorced, he’s charming, and he’s…well…hot. Even women who don’t care for his witty wordplay or obscure references are probably throwing themselves at him just to get a ride in his car. Of course, there’s a woman answering his phone! Damn it.”
So now what? Hang up and leave him trying to explain to some possessive girlfriend why another woman has his phone number? I can’t do that to him. Not after what he’s been through. I’d never do anything to hurt him, especially when I’ve obviously made the wrong assumptions about our friendship.
Instead of simply hanging up and skulking off to kick myself for not having a clue, I give the ultimate cop-out: “I’m sorry. I have the wrong number.”
Before I can hang up, I hear, “No, you don’t.”
Huh? Now that is odd. How would this woman, a stranger, know if I have the right number or not? I’ve dialed wrong numbers before and they’ve always been answered with “No problem” or a simple click of the receiver. Never someone arguing me that I don’t have the wrong number.
I guess my confusion is obvious because I don’t hang up and there’s nothing but awkward dead air between us. She’s amused. I can sense it.
Damn. Damn, damn, damn.
Then quickly—thankfully—she recovers with, “Who are you trying to reach?”
Great. Now I get to admit to his girlfriend that I’m trying to reach him. I take a deep breath and say his name. I don’t reference his job or his full name, just his nickname and surname. I can hear the amusement in the woman’s breath.
“This is his number,” she says, then pauses for effect. “I’m his mother. I’m here visiting. Who’s calling?”
I give my name and I don’t know whether to be relieved or terrified. Memories of talking to boys’ mothers flood back and I’m 42 but suddenly feeling every bit of 15. Maybe it would have been easier if the voice had belonged to a girlfriend.
“Oh,” she says cheerily. “Let me get him for you. He’s sleeping on the sofa. He was exhausted and needed a nap.”
Before I can tell her no, don’t wake him, I hear her in the background, hand not over the receiver, calling musically to him to wake up because “There’s a Lorna Tedder on the phone for you,” and asking if he wants to talk to me, and then I hear him, struggling for coherence and then taking the phone, bouncy as usual, and launching into conversation before I can say hello.
We talk for about ten minutes and cover at least twenty topics before I have to trade phones with my teen. But the most memorable thing about the conversation is and will always be his mother’s amusement at my call and at his reaction and my trip back into teenage anxiety.