If you have a child or if you love one, what you are about to read could be one of the most important lessons in your life. I have a great friend in Dallas – Sandy Pohfal – who regularly shares stories with me that are moving, inspirational or important. This is all three.
This story was written by a celebrated author, Christie Craig. She has written hundreds of articles for magazines and her photographs are equally fabulous. I have read this story before but yesterday, as minutes before I had enjoyed a dazzling tribute to the life of Hollywood’s Robin Williams, it seemed to take on a longer reach.
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THE CALL AT MIDNIGHT
By Christie Craig
We all know what it's like to get that phone call in the middle of the night. I focused on the red illuminated numbers of my clock. Midnight. Panicky thoughts filled my sleep-dazed mind as I grabbed the receiver.
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."
"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, so afraid."
Sobs of deep-felt emotion flowed from the receiver and poured into my heart. "I think. "
"No! Please let me finish! Please!" She pleaded, not so much in anger, but in desperation.
I paused and tried to think what to say. Before I could go on, she continued. "I'm pregnant, Mama. I'm scared. So scared!"
The voice broke again, and I bit into my lip, feeling my own eyes fill with moisture. I looked at my husband who sat silently mouthing, "Who is it?"
I shook my head and when I didn't answer, he jumped up, returning seconds later with the portable phone held to his ear. She must have heard the click on the line because she continued, "Are you still there? Please don't hang up on me! I need you. I feel so alone."
I clutched the phone and stared at my husband, seeking guidance. "I'm here, I wouldn't hang up," I said.
"I should have told you, Mama. I know I should have told you. But when we talk, you just keep telling me what I should do. You read all those pamphlets on how to talk to teenagers and all, but all you do is talk. You don't listen to me. You never let me tell you how I feel. It is as if my feelings aren't important. Because you're my mother you think you have all the answers. But sometimes I don't need answers. I just want someone to listen."
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.
"You know, back there on the road, after I got the car under control, I started thinking about the baby and taking care of it. Then I saw this phone booth, and it was as if I could hear you preaching about how 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. I knew from his touch that he thought I was doing and saying the right thing.
"But you know, I think I can drive now."
"No!" I snapped. My muscles stiffened, and I tightened the clasp on my husband's, "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. 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 forming in 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. I wiped the tears from my cheeks.
"We have to learn to listen," I said to him. 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. I let him hold me for several moments, then I pulled back and stared back at the bed. He studied me for a second, then asked, "Do you think she'll ever know she dialed the wrong number?"
I looked at our sleeping daughter, then back at him. "Maybe it wasn't such a wrong number."
"Mom, Dad, what are you doing?" The muffled young voice came from under the covers.
I walked over to my daughter, who now sat up staring into darkness.
"We're practicing," I answered.
"Practicing what?" she mumbled and laid back on the mattress, her eyes already closed in slumber.
"Listening," I whispered and brushed a hand over her cheek.
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To learn more about Christie Craig, her new book “Two Hearts Too Late,” and other stories, go to http://www.christie-craig.com.