In our never-ending quest to simplify, simplify, simplify, we recently scaled back our telephone service. Since most people call us on our cell phones, eliminating the charges for call-waiting, three-way calling and voicemail seemed very logical. In the event someone called and needed to leave a message, we had an answering device on our telephone set itself, though I could not recall that we had ever used it. I dutifully recorded a message and pressed the "Answer On" button.
I arrived home this afternoon to see the "new message" light blinking. It was the pharmacy; a prescription was ready for pick up. And then I noticed we had 8 old messages.
How old, I wondered?
The first was from Purple Hearts; a pick up was scheduled on our street for next Friday. The machine announced that the message was recorded on Monday. But which Monday? Today is Monday. Hmm. A mystery. Delete.
Message number two was from the Bainbridge Library. A book reserved by B had come in. The machine announced that the message was recorded on Monday.
"Honey, did you reserve a book at the Bainbridge Library?" I called down the stairs from my office.
"I haven't reserved a book there in ages, Mom."
Not current. Delete.
Message number three was from a pharmacy we only used once, in 2010 or 2011, shortly after we moved and until I figured out that another was closer to home. Stale. Delete.
Message number four was from one of the kids' old friends, asking for our new address for a birthday party invite. Ancient. Delete.
Message number five began and my heart stopped.
"Hi Margaret, it's Dad," he began, his voice strong and clear.
He was calling from his cell phone, a South Carolina number I still know by heart, though it's been nearly three years since I've called it. He's still the only person who ever calls me Margaret.
"I wanted you to know I had to take your Mother to the hospital. "
"She woke up this morning and her chest was so congested she could hardly breathe. She started coughing and couldn't catch her breath."
When was this? Was it up here, in Ohio, or back in South Carolina?
"She was coughing so hard she threw up."
"Her blood pressure was sky high. Maybe from all the coughing; I don't know. So I took her to the emergency room."
If he drove her and didn't call an ambulance, it had to be before his lung surgery.
"They started some antibiotics and took a sputum sample. They gave her something for her blood pressure, to bring it down."
I don't remember her having pneumonia in the last year or so. Or did she? Hmmm.
"They are going to keep her overnight. I'm sure she will be fine, but I wanted you to know."
Of course you did.
"I don't have her room number in front of me, so if you want to check on her, just call my cell phone."
Which hospital, Dad?
"Well, I better get off here and call the other kids. I have a whole list to go through. I'll keep you posted if anything changes."
You will; you always did.
"Tell the girls we said hello."
"Love you, Margaret."
I know, Dad; I know.
For a moment I just sat there, stunned. And then I pressed "save."
I don't know why. I don't know that I will ever be able to go back and listen to it again.
I know it's there, just waiting.
Just in case.
Just in case I ever want to hear his voice again.