Recently, I was trying to nap when my home phone rang. Much to my husband’s dismay, I’ve stopped answering the home phone. I let it ring or go to voicemail since it’s usually robocalls or telemarketers. Any and all legitimate calls come in on my cell. Even my 89-year-old Dad only calls my cell phone. But the home phone rang and I answered.
“Ellen?” A voice asked.
“Ellen. This is still your number.” You could hear the happiness in her voice. “I’m making two of your Passover recipes for a ‘pot-luck’ Seder and I said to my husband Henry, I wonder how Ellen is. It’s been so long. He said, pick up the phone and call. So I did.”
“Joan, I have been thinking of you. Wow! This is so great! I am so glad you called.”
Joan had been my son’s organizational tutor when he was in middle school, from 5th to 9th grade. For those five years, she was my savior. I joked that on the one day a week they met I didn’t have to be ‘Attila the Mum’. Never about the academics, since he is super smart, she slowly taught him to recognize that his disorganization and disregard were keeping him from his own goals. While she was unsuccessful at getting him to tie his shoelaces, under her guidance, he made huge strides. He was now four years out of college, in his second year of law school.
‘I’ve been thinking about you’, wasn’t just a line. With each of my son’s successes I thought of Joan. I thought of how she always believed in him. I thought of how she pushed and cajoled and supported him when other teachers grew frustrated. And I thought of her because she was the reason I had a second career as an executive function tutor. I modelled my teaching on her and often thought ‘what would Joan have done’.
But hard as it is to believe, there was a time before texting and that’s when we had known each other. Also, much as she was an integral part of our lives, she was my son’s tutor more than my friend. I worried the reconnection conversation would feel awkward and I had not had the courage pick up the phone. It had been close to 10 years.
Joan and I caught up. She had retired after a full career as a special ed teacher and tutor. I learned that my son was her first foray into executive function tutoring. I hadn’t known that. I smiled through the whole conversation. I am still smiling when I think about it.
I recently heard a story about a therapist who recommended to an isolated 20-something that they call a friend every day. In response, the child was ready to dump the shrink. Our kids text, they don’t call. Ask them to make a call and it is tantamount to asking them to clean the toilet. But that’s not us. Much as I have grown to loved texting, the immediacy and intimacy of a phone call are still part of my DNA.
Joan’s phone call was a kick in the butt. Despite the distance of 10 years, Joan and I talked for close to an hour. We laughed, we shared, and we hopefully will get together this summer. I have been waffling about attending my 40th college reunion. There are people I’ve lost touch with that I would love to see. Hopefully when I go, we can exchange phone numbers and start texting.