The Telephone Call
The phone rang. It was midnight. "Hello?"
My heart pounded, I gripped the phone tighter and eyed my husband, who was now turning to face my side of the bed.
"Mama?" I could hardly hear the whisper over the static. But my thoughts immediately went to my daughter. When the desperate sound of a young crying voice became clearer on the line, I grabbed for my husband and squeezed his wrist.
"Mama, I know it's late. But don't...don't say anything, until I finish. And before you ask, yes, I've been drinking. I nearly ran off the road a few miles back, and..."
I drew in a sharp shallow breath, released my husband and pressed my hand against my forehead. Sleep still fogged my mind, and I attempted to fight back the panic. Something wasn't right.
"And I got so scared. All I could think about was how it would hurt you if a policeman came to your door and said I'd been killed. I want...to come home. I know running away was wrong. I know you've been worried sick. I should have called you days ago, but I was afraid...afraid..."
Sobs of deep-felt emotion flowed from the receiver and poured into my heart. Immediately I pictured my daughter's face in my mind and my fogged senses seemed to clear. "I think--"
"No.. Please let me finish.. Please." She pleaded, not so much in anger, but in desperation.
"Are you still there? Please don't hang up on me! I need you. I feel so alone."
I clutched the phone and through the tears now starting to build, "I'm here honey, I wouldn't hang up," I answered with soft sobs. She continued,
"When we talk, you just keep telling me what I should do. You read all those pamphlets on how to talk to teens and all, but mom, you do all talking. You don't listen to me. You never let me tell you how I feel or what seems to be going on inside of me.
It is as if my feelings aren't important. Because you're my mother you [pause] you have all the answers. I know you love me, but sometimes you don't know my questions. And sometimes I just need someone to listen; to believe what I have to say is important."
I swallowed the lump in my throat and stared at the how-to-talk-to-your-kids pamphlets scattered on my nightstand. "I'm listening," I whispered. My tears now won't stop.
"You know, back there on the road, after I got the car under control, I started thinking about how much I love you and dad. Then I saw this phone booth and it was as if I could hear you preaching about people shouldn't drink and drive. So I called a taxi. I want to come home."
"That's good, Honey," I said, relief filling my chest. My husband came closer, sat down beside me and laced his fingers through mine.
"But you know, I think I can drive now."
"No!" I snapped. My muscles stiffened, and I tightened the clasp on my husband's hand. "Please, wait for the taxi. Don't hang up on me until the taxi gets there."
"I just want to come home, Mama."
"I know. But do this for your mama. Wait for the taxi, please."
I listened to the silence in fear. When I didn't hear her answer, I bit into my lip and closed my eyes. I prayed. Somehow I had to stop her from driving.
"There's the taxi, now."
Only when I heard someone in the background asking about a Yellow Cab did I feel my tension easing.
"I'm coming home, Mama." There was a click, and the phone went silent.
Moving from the bed, tears flowing uncontrollably from my eyes, I walked out into the hall and went to stand in my sixteen-year-old daughter's room. The dark silence hung thick. My husband came from behind, wrapped his arms around me and rested his chin on the top of my head.
Wiping the tears from my cheeks, "We have to learn to listen.." I said.
He pulled me around to face him. "We'll learn. You'll see." Then he took me into his arms, and I buried my head in his shoulder.
My husband then asked, "Do you think she'll ever know she dialed the wrong number?"
I looked at our sleeping daughter with tears still pouring uncontrollably down my cheeks for that young girl who was reaching out in the middle of the night; "Maybe it wasn't such a wrong number."
From Chicken Soup for the Mama's Soul.
Have a great day...