I Was Too Busy to Take My Father’s Last Phone Call

I thought it was a day like any other. Crazy hectic. I was trying to do more and more. Employees were standing outside my door looking for help; clients were calling. I was late for a lunch date and late on a big project I was supposed to have finished. But this day would be different.

One Hectic Day

I was at my desk taking support calls. These were the days of phones with illuminated push buttons. All the lines were blinking. There was a stack of pink “While You Were Away” call slips in front of me. One call after another, answering customers’ questions on our software.

Lynn, my secretary who was right outside my office door, said, “Your father is on the line.”

I yelled back, “Tell him I’ll call him later. I’m too busy to talk.”

I went back to the customer on hold. I was helping her with a problem she was having so she could complete her work. Then on to the next call and the next and the next.

My Sister’s Call

Thirty minutes later, my secretary said, “Your sister is on the line.”

“Tell her I’ll call her back,” I said.

“She needs to talk to you right now. It’s urgent.”

I hung up on my client.

“She’s on line two,” Lynn said.

“Hey, Jan. What’s so important we have to talk right away?” I asked.

“I am at the hospital. Dad just died,” she said.

“What happened? He just called me. He can’t be dead. He can’t be gone. He can’t!”

The Moment of Regret

I’ll never forget that call, that moment. The sadness and emptiness in my sister’s voice. What the room looked like. The quiet which blotted out everything around me. The sun shining through my office window. The trees blowing about outside. The eerie calm. The shock. The regret. The quiet. It became so quiet.

“I didn’t take his call,” I thought to myself.

“I could have talked to him one last time. Now he is gone forever,” I said out loud to no one in particular.

I lost my father on February 15, 1981 at 3:30 pm.

I should have taken his call.

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2 thoughts on “I Was Too Busy to Take My Father’s Last Phone Call

  1. Many years ago I got a job as an art teacher in a local elementary school. As the one art teacher in the school I taught between 700 and 900 kids each week or week and a half. Being a Florida School, there were covered walkways leading to various one-story buildings. There was no art room so I loaded and reloaded my rolling cart as needed and was constantly transporting supplies from a store- room to a classroom and was seen on the walkways to and from room to room more than almost any other teacher. The school principal often had the need to visit various rooms and I would meet her on her way to a classroom. I learned something from her. She was from West Virginia and had really old fashioned values, including old fashioned manners which went well with her slightly hillbilly accent. When we were on the path at the same time and I had a question about something or needed to share something with her, I was always impressed that she did not feel the same pressure of time that I, as a New York & New Jersey native, just automatically inherited without thinking.
    She would stop even if she was in a hurry and hear me out, or we would have a mini-discussion about something and I never felt rushed. Each time we parted, me, going on my way and she, on hers, I would always be so impressed with that brand of politeness which I had not been accustomed to in my native land. As Charlie reminded me a couple of times, one teaches best by example. This woman’s example stayed with me. That was a great and valued legacy which I totally adopted. How did that play out? Here’s an example. I was late for an appointment and rushed through getting ready and rushed to get into my car just outside my apartment, when a grandchild of one of my neighbors peered into the open window of my car and pointing to something inside the car asked something like “what is that for”. Even though I had worked myself into that “I-don’t-want-to-be-late” frenzy, I remembered the lesson I’d learned. I got out of the car and let the child sit in the driver’s seat pointing to this and that and asking what things were for, and I indulged his curiosity. He was all smiles for the 3 or 4 minutes the whole situation took. I realized from this and other situations, that all the time I was hoarding may have amounted to less than 5 minutes. One kind of gets brainwashed into adopting the prevailing attitude of one’s surroundings without even realizing it.
    Now, as a senior citizen (hate that term) I ask myself more than once if my criticism or attitude about something was something I thought, or was taught to think. By the same token one can mindlessly inherit prevailing responses to situations that in calmer moments we would abandon.
    So, what would dad have said if you had taken the call? “If anything happens to me, take care of mom (and your sister). You’re a great guy, and I’m proud of you.”

    • Great lesson from a great story. Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Don’t hate the term “senior citizen.” There is a reason for everything…almost.