The phone and I have a different relationship since Reid’s cancer diagnosis. “Different,” like how? Different like this: now I don’t really want to be talking on the phone at all; now the actual eager impulse to make a telephone call comes at wildly random moments that may or may not coincide with lunar phases, or how good my coffee tastes, what shoes I’m wearing or any other number of indiscriminate and unrelated factors.
This is not to say I won’t pick up, call back or dial out. I will, but not without either gritting my teeth – or being in the mood (which, as you’re deducing, has become a rare phenomenon). So far, there isn’t a middle place between my two “be on the phone” settings.
Don’t get me wrong, please. I really like having a phone. It’s a tremendously useful tool, and if it gets momentarily lost or left behind, my anxiety meter definitely goes to yellow zone. What did we do before cell phones? Instant messages? Texting the immediate occurrences of our day to day lives? How on earth could anyone reach us way back when? And if they tried us twenty times, and we didn’t have a message machine — they could certainly feel frustrated, but rarely held against us that we weren’t returning calls we didn’t even know had been made. To me, use of the phone was more fun back then and less obligatory, but in times of crisis – it made communications very difficult. Which brings me back to Now.
Now – one part of being a family with cancer in the 21st century is that (hopefully) communications are easier and more frequent. During the 34 days that Reid was at OHSU – 350 miles away from home – the telephone was an essential part of dealing with both distance and difficulty. I was inundated by calls – multiple times a day – from family and friends who were desperate with worry and a deep need to know what was happening. Likewise, in our isolation, calls out were like distress signals from a tenebrous fog – reaching for connection and comfort.
Since that time, as Reid’s treatment has progressed, I can honestly say “Thank God for the phone.” Calls to the clinic and the nurses, late night emergencies with on-call physicians, and especially – my being able to keep in touch with Reid and his younger sisters at the push of a button – have immeasurable value to us. Leukemia is some seriously scary shit, and being able to check in regularly can occasionally help ease fear.
Yet the days of chit-chatty, long and rambling, just for the fun of it telephone calls are temporarily gone. I don’t have it in me to press the phone to my face for longer than a few minutes. Come sit for a cup of tea, share a meal with us, or let’s take a nice brisk walk. Come be face to face; we don’t even have to talk and if possible, we can leave our cell phones on silent.
Let’s make a date. Call me.