Remember when the phone would ring, and the handset was connected to the windy circular cord, which was attached to the phone jack in the wall, and when we picked it up we didn’t know who was on the other end of the line? Yes, knowing this experience deeply qualifies me as a “dinosaur” but I know I am not alone so I don’t mind.
Those curly cords came in multiple feet lengths, so we could multi task with the phone in our ears and move around a bit. We didn’t have a way to protect our necks from the kinks that came from not having “ear buds” and having to position the phone between our shoulders and necks so our hands were free.
The thought of not answering a ringing phone (commonly known today as “screening” calls) never occurred to us. The phone rang, we stopped what we were doing, and we answered it. There was no caller ID, and it was a bit of a momentary mystery when we picked up the phone. “Hello?”
If the call wasn’t for us we would look around the room for the intended recipient, or simply shout, so we could be heard in the next room(s) “It’s for you!” That announcement would then be answered with either a distant response coming from another part of the home, or one through the actual phone with “I’ve got it!” That was our cue to hang up.
Thanks for indulging me a few extra lines to provide some history, because something miraculous happened yesterday that I have to share. My 22 year old son Zach, for the first time ever, called me on his own!
We recently got Zach a data plan and a phone number. This was done mainly to make sure he had a connection even when he wasn’t on a WiFi. Losing access to online entertainment like “Johnnie and the Sprites” or “Wobble” on Spotify when in the car and moving away from the house and his internet connection is not a pleasant experience. Plus it seemed like a great birthday gift for him.
Yesterday I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer because I was on a Zoom call. Later, Zach’s Dad told me that Zach’s new number was set up and Zach had tried calling me earlier. I made the connection and updated that missed call to include Zach’s name. Sure enough, hours later, my phone rang and it showed Zach’s name. I picked up.
“Zach?”… “Hi Mom.” He said. “Hi Zach!” I responded, “What are you up to?”
A spontaneous conversation ensued. We chatted about what he did yesterday, and I asked him questions that I knew he could answer to keep him engaged. “What color is your shirt today?” He responded “Orange.” “That’s so cool Zach, I know you love orange” knowing his shirt may or may not be orange, as his words don’t always match his thoughts or his environment.
A minute or two in, Zach said “FaceTime?!” I said “Sure” and touched the icon that turned our audio chat into a face to face conversation. In addition to asking to “make a plan” he asked when I was coming “home.” I told him I would see him tomorrow and we talked about what we would do.
“I miss you Mom.” Zach said. My heart melted. I simultaneously realized, Zach had headphones on. This was different than the calls I am used to, where his Dad helps him call me and we try to connect. Usually, our communication is dependent on the participation of his Dad who puts the phone on ”speaker” mode and kind of follows a constantly moving Zachary around the house while I ask him questions and he replies with one word answers, if at all.
Not this time.
Not only had Zach initiated the call to me without his Dad, it was a completely private call. Just my son, and me chatting about the day. In fact, his father didn’t even know we were on the phone until he noticed my face on Zach’s phone screen and said “Oh, you’re talking to Mom? Nice buddy.”
It’s easy to take simple things for granted. After 22 years of phones ringing that only involved Zach if someone else were doing the calling, I received this experience as a true miracle. A smile from above, opening a new line of connection for Zach and me. I felt a rush of warmth which felt like pride and fulfillment, wash over me. I thanked God that Zach has lived long enough to develop the ability to call his Mom on his own.
Now I have the pleasure of creating a ring tone for him, and a mime and all kinds of fun things parents of typically developing children do when their kids get a phone. I can probably even put a phone locator on! As silly as it sounds, I never imagined such an opportunity with Zach.
But the best part of the call was this: Although when we FaceTime he normally holds the phone to the ceiling so I can’t see him, Zach turned the phone in such a way that I got to see his shirt. There it was. Orange! Just like he said. I’d asked him a question, and he’d answered accurately and without help from anyone.
Yup. This call was for me. And it was the best call I ever answered.