I woke up last night, New Year’s Day at 1:44am panicking that I had missed a phone call from my parents. It was a ritual since I moved out in 1990, my mom or dad would call, wish me Happy New Year. It took me a few seconds to realize I hadn’t missed a phone call. With my mom passing in July and my dad earlier in February, there wouldn’t ever be another call. That thought woke me up harder than a glass of cold water hitting me in the face.
As I laid there it dawned on me the troubled past I have had with the phone. Not just cell phone, but even back when we just had landlines during the time of the dinosaurs. Phones have always been an anxious point for me, I wonder if last night might be the crescendo and as we go they will be less anxious as time pass.
The only people I have ever regularly called were my parents. No one else, not even my husband. With everyone else I almost always rely on text. However, my parents didn’t like technology beyond 1988 so the phone was how they talked to me.
There was good parts. I would talk with them daily, sometimes more than once a day. They would tell me about their day, what had been happening. My mom would talk about family or stuff she saw on tv, documentaries, news broadcasts. My dad loved to tell me about a movie he saw and that he thought I would really like. They both would call daily just to tell both the hubby and I that they loved us. I am not joking, when I say every single day.
The bad parts were not as numerous, but they are what caused the anxiety. When I was younger (mid-thirties and earlier) I was anxious because I would get one of two types of bad calls intermixed with the good calls. The call that my dad was in jail, due to some fight he got into when he was drunk.
The other, and even more anxiety driven part was when he would call drunk. He was a severe alcoholic and he would rant, or possibly yell if we had a fight earlier. Mostly it was apologizing for being an alcoholic and for the poverty and anxiety we went through when I was a kid. Occasionally he would call and yell about something. This usually resulted in me hanging up. I knew that my parents were incredibly loving parents, they supported me in everything and went hungry so we could eat. However, they were unable to cope as fully as adults due to the alcoholism, and my dad’s multiple brain injuries and experiences in Vietnam.
Those phone calls would keep me up for days. I have since learned I have PTSD and that is what it would set off. It didn’t change they were good parents for almost all other aspects, but the alcoholism made it so they were in poverty, violence surrounding us, and in various levels of homelessness after I was 10 years old.
After my mid-thirties things changed. My parents stopped drinking as much, and within a few years stopped drinking altogether. However, the bad calls now were health related. My mom had a major heart attack, minor heart attacks, breast cancer, mini-strokes, blood clots and severe health issues with her diabetes. In part, due to lifestyle choices including smoking, drinking and hard drugs when they were younger.
My dad’s health also started tanking in my mid-thirties. He was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, and since he was poor and on social security by this time there were no other options given. However, he continued on for almost a decade when he originally only had two years to live.
So the bad calls had lessened compared to the drunken calls, but each time I got one I was told one of my parents had gone to the ER, and sometimes included the phrase “they might not make it.” Over the last three years or so these calls had intensified to almost monthly. The hubby and I several times had to miss work or even leave from work depending on when the call came.
This resulted in me never leaving my phone at home. I don’t think I ever left my cell phone home since we got one in 2006. It was always on me, and I always answered the phone from my parents no matter where I was. If I was busy I would excuse myself and go talk to them. Most of the time it was a good call and I would never tell them they interrupted me. I liked the good calls and didn’t want to have them hesitate in calling me. Sometimes however it was a bad call. These are the calls that dictated how I handled my phone. These are the calls that made me unable to let my parents go to voicemail.
Fast forward months after they passed, the hubby noticed one day last week that I hadn’t brought my phone with us at all. I had forgotten it. He was surprised and commented on it. It was strange, I didn’t feel anxious having left it at home. I had never before not been worried about who might call, after all I was with the most important person in my life.
So I laid there this morning. My heart still pounding a bit from waking up and thinking I had missed the call. My grief which still hasn’t been handled was hiding away from me, just lurking at the edges. Even like that though, I know it will get easier. I won’t say better, but definitely easier.
Maybe I don’t need to worry about my phone anymore.