When my brother was in college, he would call my parents and I each week on Sunday. It was our schedule. We would get home from church, eat lunch, and Gary would call. He would call collect for himself and whomever answered the phone would refuse the call. Then, we would call him at his dorm or apartment and catch-up on our shared news. It was usually me who spoke first, then Dad, then Mom. Mom was usually last. When he married, the tradition continued until my parents moved back to Houston and they could call at anytime. They still talk each week.
In 1976, off I went to college (Ouachita Baptist University) and it was my turn to call collect each Sunday. I, however, called for our dog, Shorty. My dad would chuckle each time the operator said, "I have a collect call for Shorty." My dad would say with a little laugh, "I'm sorry, he can't talk right now." Because Shorty couldn't. And of course, the phone would ring in my dorm and I would tell them all about my week in Arkadelphia. When I graduated, married, and moved to Arizona, the calls continued. We talk each Sunday, unless I am out-of-town. Then, I am supposed to call on Monday. If by chance I don't call by Tuesday, you can expect Katherine, my mom, will be calling to ask if we are all okay. It's a given.
Raising my kids so far away from my parents has often brought questions from people wondering how close my kids are to Nana and Papa. After all, Houston is 16 hours away and that is a lifetime to people who live close to their grandchildren. I do my best to explain that they have heard their grandparents' voices on the phone regularly since they were babies. Each week, I would hold the phone to their little ears so they could listen to Nana and Papa tell them they loved them and other things. When they could hold the receiver without licking it, they listened intently as Nana and Papa shared little stories and news with them, ending in how much they were loved and missed. I kept their pictures in their rooms so they would recognize them and they wouldn't think the phone was Nana and Papa. As they grew older, their talks were often private and I would talk to Mom and Dad when the kids were finished. We saw my parents at least twice a year, sometimes more, but they spoke to their grandparents each week. Our phone bills were expensive, but it was money well spent. My kids spoke to them regularly when they were in college and they still do. Close? Very.
The news we share is usually not too important. Important news or concerns get a call during the week. This usually follows a trip to the doctor, the emergency room, a biopsy, a death, a birth, and things we know can't wait. If they call me on a weekday or at night, I am a little frightened when I see the caller id.
Dad often updates me on the sports he follows. The Dallas Cowboys take center stage, followed by the Houston Astros, and of course, the Rockets. I never hear much about the Texans and certainly not the Rangers. He watches a lot of CNN and the local news so we talk about the US, global issues, and politics. The man loves politics, as long as it is his point of view! I know all about the tomato plants and other things growing in his yard. I receive a pecan report each fall. It concerned me to learn someone called the police after he was seen shooting his BB gun at the squirrels in the front yard and five cruisers showed up like a SWAT emergency. Squirrels are the enemy and he must defend his pecan crop. Dad might have a joke he heard at church and I always hear about his friends at College Park Baptist. Advice is free, but not insisted.
Mom and I talk longer. She goes into the bedroom to speak privately and she has been known to complain a little about my dad. I keep her complaints to myself because I understand that a girl sometimes needs to vent. We laugh about things my students say and she always wants to know about my classes. She coaches me through cooking, quilting, sewing, and other things she has mastered. She knows I don't have her green thumb so gardening information is usually short. Every year, she inquires as to whether I am up-to-date on my mammograms and am I staying healthy. Concern becomes a worry if my voice is hoarse and she will make extra calls in the week if she learns I am ill. For a woman who struggles with memory loss, she never ever forgets a worry I have shared with her. I am her baby and she is still the mother.
Conversations with my parents have helped me make it through some very trying times. I have cried on the phone more than once when I have been worried, afraid, and frustrated with life's challenges. My dad always reassures me with, "God will take care of you." My mom is the pep club. She tells me she is proud of me, encourages me to do what is difficult, and helps me believe "All things pass or it's just a phase." I know they always have my best interests in their hearts and minds.
One day, I fear a different call will come and I know the day is getting closer and closer. I don't like to think about it, because I don't like to think about my life without them. So, I call each Sunday because every minute and every call counts.