Saturday, October 16, 2010

Phone Home

The rotary phone we had for the most number of years
with our beloved numbers.

Several years ago I read a guest article in my hometown newspaper about the long history of a family's telephone number. I identified with this article, my home phone number since the mid to late 1950s had been used by my mother for over half a century! The writer of the guest column was relating how important their home number was and the memories associated with it. Their home phone number had become a fax machine number, a sister believing their mother would not live long had disconnected the number without the knowledge of other family members.

A couple of days ago I ran across the article, I had saved it and at the time felt in my not-too-distant future I would be experiencing some of the same emotions as the article writer.

It is almost overwhelming to think of all the conversations on our old family phone! All the news exchanged, good and bad. Our friends calling us ... including my sister and brother. There were the "prank calls" we made to stores asking, "Do you have Prince Edward in a can?". Many younger people would not know Prince Albert was tobacco. Of course, this was before Caller ID.

Sometimes there were the dreaded phone calls announcing the deaths of family members ... and sometimes the very exciting and happy news of new births! In those days if you had to make business calls, you actually were able most times to talk to a human being. Imagine!

In the early 1980s, my uncle (mom's brother) and his family who lived in Alabama had the exact same number as our phone number except for the area code, seven of the numbers.  When Clint and I lived in the Atlanta area, our last four numbers of our home number were ... you quessed it, the last four of my old home phone number.  Once again the number was made more special by reappearing again in my life.

 The most important connection to this number was being able to reach our mother. For some years since I moved to Texas, I talked to her almost every single day. It was comforting to know I could pick up the phone and she would be at the other end.

During the past year or so we were seeing changes in our mother. She was diagnosed with mild dementia (not so mild to us!) and she had to be placed in a facility for 24/7 care. There were the emotional ties to that phone number and the hope that mom would miraculously recover, return home and be by that phone forever, ready to take our calls.

Since my mother has been gone from that number for the past five months, I could not bring myself to dial the number. I just dialed it a minute ago and received the following message: The number you have dialed is no longer in service, if you feel this ...

Before I started this post, I called my sister to discuss me writing about our old phone number. Unlike the guest columnist that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my sister and I did discuss our old family number. I called my sister to ask how much she pays a month to keep mom's old number with the option of reinstating it. Maybe that was why I was not quite upset as I thought I would be when I got the message a little earlier that the "number has been disconnected" when I called it. I know it is not totally disconnected since we pay a fee for "hope"

Totally irrational I know, the things we do to attempt to hang on to those we love ...

Mom, around 1961.
Photo by Gene Tipton, Clinton Art Studio



Patti said...

Not only was my mother at that number, but also you my beloved sister always willing and ready to (in many cases) come to my rescue

Clint said...

I get to thinking about phone numbers from my past and it is surprising the memories they bring. Great posting!