We got our first telephone when we moved into town when I was four years old. It was a black table model with a rotary dial. We rented it from the telephone company, just like everybody else. If we called someone and the phone rang and rang and no one answered, you knew they were not at home. If they were talking on the phone, you heard a different sound called a busy signal.
People who didn’t want to talk sometimes took their phone receiver “off the hook” so that people would get a busy signal and think they were already talking to someone else. “Off the hook” is a weird expression. It probably came into use when the ear piece of a big wooden wall phone hung on an actual hook. In the fifties and sixties, “off the hook” meant that the receiver was not resting on the phone where it belonged, but on a table. I remember the fear I felt when we got a late night call. It usually meant that someone was very sick and on the way to the hospital. Our family never ignored a phone call or left the phone off the hook. Phone calls involved people and people were important.
We are one of a shrinking number of families who still have a land line, but I probably use my smart phone more than I use the land line. Cell phones bother my ears, so I use a bluetooth much of the time. I recently got a new one. It talks to me. I find that annoying, but I’m willing to put up with it to make my ears feel better. When I get a call, my bluetooth tells me what number is calling and then instructs me to push the button once if I want to answer it and twice if I want to ignore it. What a foreign concept that would have been in my family, actually ignoring a phone call.
While we were at the California state homeschooling convention, I got a phone call just fifteen minutes before the convention ended on Saturday night. I wasn’t wearing my bluetooth, so I looked at the phone and saw the number. It was my mother. We talk every day, but it is rare for her to call me. She usually waits for me to call her. I answered the phone and heard two unintelligible syllables and then the call was lost. I knew immediately that my mother was in trouble. I felt confident that she was in the midst of a stroke. I called my brother and a friend both of whom live near her and also called her local emergency number (a number I keep in my purse for such a time as this). An ambulance took her to the hospital in Nashville.
Since I was far, far away in California, I wondered what I should do. On Sunday one of her doctors assured me that Mother would improve and that I did not need to rush home, but he said some sobering words: “Your mother may talk again and she may not.” I thought: “I’ll hold on to the ‘may,’ because this is Mother.” I’ve seen Mother’s courageous determination many times.
I took the advice of two different doctors and made the difficult decision to remain out West to do the Colorado homeschool convention and travel home with Ray, Nate, Mary Evelyn, and Clara as originally planned. I felt ripped in two. Ray said the other day that he wondered when I was going to write about this. Those who have read this blog for several weeks know that we saw many of God’s wonders while we were there. What I didn’t talk about were the hours on the phone with caregivers. I hope that you never need to know this, but cell phone service is great along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.
While I was gone, Mother spent four days in the hospital and a week in rehab. My brother and niece were wonderful and took great care of her. She was released from rehab the day after we returned home. We brought her home with us. She is working hard in home health therapy and learning to talk again. You can imagine my joy last week when she falteringly told the speech therapist, “I want to learn to speak.”
I was in a meeting at my house this week and my cell phone rang. Others in the meeting wondered why I didn’t ignore it. Well, look at the picture below. Mother’s trip home from rehab coincided with the night that Bethany and Gregory brought Eva to our house for the first time. On the following Sunday we took this four-generation picture. Mother’s call to me that night was her only link to help. She tried to make other calls but no one could hear her say anything and they didn’t realize it was she.
I’m glad I heard my phone. I’m glad I answered it. I’m glad God answers when I call on Him.
In the day of my trouble
I shall call upon You,
For You will answer me.
Psalm 86:7, NASB