I started crying in the middle of an exercise class I was teaching Wednesday. I thought I had gotten it over with—driving over the bridge on the way there—but music has a way of squeezing out every last bit of emotion—and when that old Four Tops song, Reach Out, I’ll Be There, started playing, I got all weepy again.
I had just gotten some very sad, very happy news (depending on your perspective—Isn’t that usually the case?) That morning, my devoted, dear, forever friend, Kelly, had texted asking if she could come by for a “hug.” I was suddenly suspicious. Needing to schedule a hug seems to imply something dire. I immediately called her, and she assured me that her cancer had not returned, that her kids, husband, parents and pooches were okay, and that nothing awful had happened.
And indeed, she got to my house, looking healthy and happy and huggable. We sat on the couch and yacked for over an hour and I felt so relaxed in her company (as usual) that I eventually forgot to worry. Then, in a slight lull in the conversation (an anomaly in itself when Kelly and I get together) she said, “Actually there is another reason I came by.”
Ha! So it wasn’t just the hug. Damn! And then the other shoe dropped—“Bill and I have been going round and round with this, and finally, after looking at it from every angle, we have decided to move back home.”
I was shocked—and understood completely. I had done nearly the exact same thing 18 years before.
Immediately, the most selfish part of me wanted to shout, “But you are home! This is your home.” And while it is true that she has lived happily here for the last 12 years or so, her home is where the rest of her family is, and close to where she grew up. They are moving back to Birmingham in a couple of weeks to be closer to her aging parents, siblings, grown children, and soon, very soon—a grandbaby. How could I argue? I did the same thing when my parents’ health started to fail—moved our whole little family from Seattle, the only place the boys had ever lived, back to the Gulf Coast. It was a hard decision, and it was the right decision.
So, I was genuinely happy for her—actually somewhat relieved that none of my imagined doomsday scenarios were playing out. She would no longer be right around the block from me, but neither was she moving to Cambodia. She’d be about four hours away. I have a car, and I know the way.
So, why the tears? This is a good thing all around. So what was it that had me all emotional—irrationally emotional?
Does anyone remember from back in your hazy childhood or adolescence, screaming these words—“I’ll get it!!!”—and jumping up, even in the middle of the Brady Bunch on Friday night, to be the one to answer the phone—and even being disappointed when it wasn’t for you— “MOMMMM, Telephone!” Do you remember that? I do. Then I’d lay the receiver—that big clunky piece of plastic attached by a long squiggly cord to another piece of plastic attached to a wall—on the counter and scream again—“MOMMMM, It’s for you!”
But when it was for me, I remember being so happy when someone called me on the phone.
Now, uh, not so much.
Yesterday I was sitting in the waiting room of the Endoscopy center there on Davis, waiting to drive Ted home after his procedure. The place was packed. I would estimate that there were probably 50 people waiting. And even though the demographic of the colonoscopy crowd is my generation and older, most of the folks there had some type of iGismo or screen-thing that they were interacting with. It was pretty quiet in there, despite the fact that four dozen humans were jammed in a small room shoulder to shoulder. Andy Griffith was playing quietly on the giant TV by the door.
Suddenly, my phone rang (actually, it chimed; phones don’t ring anymore) and I was overcome with this ridiculous urge to scream out into the silent room, “I’ll get it!!!” And then, once I had everyone’s attention, put my hand over the receiver and smugly report, “It’s for me!”
It’s for me.
And that’s the way I feel about Kelly, and the way she seems to feel about me. This great enthusiasm over being there for one another. When I call her, she answers, usually, immediately, but always within the hour. When I text her, she replies. When I make plans with her, she shows up. She wouldn’t mind missing the tail end of that Brady Bunch episode even when TIVO is not an option. She’d rather talk to me.
Yes, she is reliable—perhaps the most reliable person I know, certainly far more reliable than I am. But it’s much deeper, much sweeter, than that. And that’s where the lyrics to another song, playing as I crossed the Bob Sikes bridge Wednesday, brought me to my knees.
An old Jackson 5 Ballad played: “I’ll reach out my hand to you. I’ll have faith in all you do. Just call my name. I’ll be there.” Yeah, that one got me.
Kelly has seen me at my very best—but alas, also at my very worst. And she just doesn’t flinch. She just has so much faith in me. She has “faith in all I do,” even when I’m a mess, she seems to see through all my garbage to the fearfully and beautifully made child of God, she knows I am. And though she is not as forthcoming about her struggles, I too see through all the surface stuff, to her depths. And they are even more beautiful than the outward, gorgeous, Goddess-Kel that everyone can’t help but admire.
It is a rare friendship, I think. Reliable, validating—and above all, loyal. I recently suffered a painful betrayal from someone I care about. It rocked me to my core. My character was angrily attacked, but in such a covert, passive-aggressive way, that I could not defend myself. Actually, I should not defend myself. I should know better than to try.
I called Kelly. She answered.
And here’s the thing. We didn’t even discuss the betrayal. The person disparaging me would have had power over me, to further diminish me, if I paid tit for tat. And to be honest, that is what I usually do—I’m working on it—but this day, it was enough to just have my friend pick up the phone when she saw it was me. Such a simple thing, y’all, but so rare in this day and age.
I don’t know what the answer is when it comes to communications these days. It is all so very overwhelming. Between phone calls, voice messages, texts, emails, IM’s, and actual visitors to my home, I am called upon to “answer” dozens of times every single day. We all are. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Sometimes I just throw my hands up and hide out—“lose” my phone, “forget” to call back, or feign technological incompetence—“My phone messed up”—or worse, claim moral superiority as an excuse—“I refuse to be a slave to technology” implying that it is somehow noble of me to ignore your call or text. Yes, I’ve done all of these things, and so have you, I bet.
I don’t want to do that anymore. Nor do I want to be constantly tied to my phone. There’s got to be a compromise. All of this technology is relatively new. I mean the days of the single land-line on the wall in your Mom’s avocado kitchen have passed—but that was only a few decades ago. We haven’t yet figured out how to balance it all. But, if you own a smart phone, a computer, or an iPad, you are in the game whether you like it or not. You have tacitly agreed to “answer.” If you have a phone number, an email address, a social media platform, or even a street address, you are in the game.
I don’t know what the “rules” should be for me. Currently I’m trying to reply to morning texts and voice messages the same day—and evening communications the next morning. E-mails I try to get to within 24 hours. And, of course, if someone comes to my door, I open it.
But when I am actually enjoying real time with a real person in a real place—like lunch with my friend Dawn, or the beach with Nancy, or even watching Jeopardy at 6:00 with Ted—I feel like I should put all technology aside.
Which means I’m not going to “answer” till later. Right? Hmmm. Same goes for work that requires focus and full attention. I am the world’s worst multi-tasker. All of these “new” technological “options” make me a little crazy. My favorite James Taylor lyric expresses my frustration perfectly—“I hear horns, I hear voices, I hear strings—seems I was born with too many choices. What am I gonna do with all these extra things, as they serve to confuse me…”
Ha! I’m confused, clearly. But my bottom line seems to be this—I want to be reliable and encouraging—the kind of person that friends and family know they can count on. And if I’m honest with myself, I realize that the people I turn to in need or even just for fun, are the ones who are reliably available—the ones, like Kelly, who I can imagine screaming, “I’ll get it!!!” when I call, or text, or show up at their door.
Thanks, Kel. I will miss you. But, here’s the thing. I know you will still “answer” when I call. And I will answer when you call, and yes, I’ll be there, too.
In about four hours.
So, do any of y’all have any suggestions for me? My goal is to be a friend/family member that others can count on—not just for the big crises, but for the day-to-day stuff. I want to be reliable and enthusiastic in my communications with others. That said, I don’t want technology to usurp time that might be spent interacting on a more personal face-to-face level. Ideas?
Calling all Washingtonians! Or more specifically, all Spokanites. Ha! If you have any friends or family members in the Spokane area, please reach out to them and let them know about an event at Auntie’s Bookstore on Wednesday, August 23rd at 7:00 PM. I have been invited speak, and read some stories from my book. I’m so excited!
Books are available from this website, through Amazon.com, and from all of these local retailers:
At the beach:
69 Via DeLuna Dr.
Pensacola Beach, FL 32561
In Gulf Breeze:
832 Gulf Breeze Parkway
(Publix shopping center)
Gulf Breeze, FL 32561
In East Hill:
1208 N. 12th Ave.
Pensacola, FL 32503
(at the front register)
5109 Bayou Blvd.
Pensacola, FL 32503
89 Central Square
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32549
Page and Palette
32 S. Secton Street
Fairhope, AL 36532