Holidays and Phone Conversations

I sneak away from the noise and conversation of the crowded dining room table covered with now-empty, but used dessert plates, cut pies, and coffee cups. I walk to the far end of the kitchen and stand looking out at the night. I call my mom on my cell phone.Β  Her voice is upbeat when she answers the phone, so I know she had a good day. Relief washes over me that my two sisters were able to make the Thanksgiving dinner into a celebratory meal. When I committed to having my husband’s mother and sister over to our house for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure how things were going to work out for Mom and Dad. An image of them sitting alone at their kitchen table haunted me. But it all worked out.

After talking for a few minutes with Mom about the day, I tell her I can’t talk long because company waited in the dining room. “Can I talk to Dad?” I ask. Mom puts down the phone in the kitchen and walks into the living room to hand Dad the cordless phone in there. I can hear muted conversation in the background, but I don’t know whether my dad actually has the phone and I should be talking to him or not.

I hear my mom say, “Don’t push any of the buttons.” I know my dad must have the phone, so I start talking.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Dad.” I hear nothing in reply, but then I don’t expect to. I’m not even entirely sure if he’s got the phone up to his ear.

“Are you there, Dad?” I ask.

“Um hum,” he says.

“Did you have a good Thanksgiving dinner?” I ask. I don’t wait very long for a response.

My mom has gotten back on the phone in the kitchen, but she can’t see Dad from where she is, so she doesn’t know any more than I do about the status of the phone in Dad’s hands.

I talk on. A one-way conversation.

“We just finished dessert. Anna made us four beautiful pies. Matt and Joe came home too, with their girlfriends. Mark’s mom, Karen, Alayne and Toby are here too.”

I don’t have a lot more to say, and I hear sounds of chairs being pushed out and people moving around in our dining room that signals family members getting ready to leave.

“Well, I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving,” I say. “I’m going to hang up now.”

I wait a moment.

“Good-bye,” I say.


I’m not sure whether to hang up, or wait, or what to do. My sister Carol gets on the phone. She must have been standing by my dad. “He wants to tell you good-bye,” she says.

“Good-bye, Dad,” I say again.

I wait, looking outside at the darkness.

“Why don’t you just wave to me, Dad,” I say after what seems like several minutes but in reality could only have been a number of seconds.

I hear Carol’s light laughter at a little distance over the phone, “He’s waving to you,” she says.

“I love you, Daddy,” I say. “Good-bye. I’m going to hang up now.”

And I do.

29 thoughts on “Holidays and Phone Conversations”

  1. I love the tenderness and your ability to converse with your father even over the phone. You continue to know just how to reach him and how often to allow him to respond in his limited condition. Many blessings to you and yours.

  2. A story I will cherish. I am learning so much from you about patience and tender caring in the face of the silence. Thank you for that gift.

    1. The silence is hard. We never know how much he understands. After all the years of not being able to communicate with Annie, sometimes I feel really bad that now my mom has a very similar situation with my dad. I try not to go there, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair.

      1. Think of it this way, because of the love and reality of Annie your whole family has learned how powerful small moments of love and kindness are. It’s not fair, you are right, but at the same time your mother has already proven her strength of purpose. My family is just learning these lessons now, but don’t handle it with nearly as much grace.

  3. A Beautiful moment that captures the tears … My heart goes out to you Christine.. Let us all cherish the Gifts we have and give Thanks for all there Blessings…
    Happy Thanksgiving..
    Sue x

    1. Yes. And it’s hard to communicate with them. And “the future” arrived too quickly. And they are no longer who they used to be. And they are not making good decisions. And . . .

      It’s sad to see them aging before my eyes.

      1. I feel for you, Nancy. It’s always sad when the hard reality of parents growing older hits. I remember clearly the first time it struck us. Mark had taken his father to a Notre Dame football game and he came home kind of stunned, and said, “I realized that now he needs me a lot more than I need him.”

        It is sad, but they are still the people they used to be, just more vulnerable versions. I struggled with some of my mom’s decisions earlier on my dad’s Alzheimer’s journey, but now I weigh the need for personal independence and dignity against my need to see things done my way. It’s hard.

        Your world view will see you through.

  4. What a wonderful story! I went through that with Grandma – the need to drop expectations and be creative. How wonderful to know he heard and understood the conversation enough to wave goodbye to you.

    Everytime I think you can’t post something even more over the top than you did before, you do. You’ve really been a roll, between the photo of wonder, yesterday’s family story and now this. And a few months ago, you didn’t think you could find enough to write about.

  5. This is beautiful, and touching, Christine. And this is an excellent example of why I stick around to read what you write. πŸ™‚


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