haunting, familiar, yet I can’t seem to place it…

“We kept his phone on.”

This is what she says to me about her dead husband.

People do this daily to me, they tell me about their problems and their lives. I don’t know if I’m equipped to handle them. I wanted to be a psychiatrist once. I took so many classes. I could diagnose all sorts of disorders. But I’m not made to take on the weight. You’re not supposed to. I bet that’s one of the first things they instruct future psychiatrists, you never take on the weight.

“The phone company keeps asking me why I have this unused line open. They keep telling me I should close it, ” she says. “Sometimes the kids still call him though, just to hear his voice. So I keep it on. Sometimes I still call him.”

It’s then I realize its not just me. There is no correct way to grieve. We’re all just flying blindly.

We’re not alone in this. The way we’ve never turned off our house phone even though the only people who call are telemarketers. How we’ve kept the same answering machine message for these past 18 years. I wonder if my family members call it from time to time like I do. When they know that no one will be home. Just to hear that sweet voice for 10 seconds. To hear that Pearl Jam song in the background fade out. Those lyrics I could never understand. It took me years to figure out what song it was. “Haunting, familiar, yet I can’t seem to place it..” Now I hear it clearly like I’ve known it all along. Now its one of my favorite songs. I wonder if they also hang up quickly before you can leave an actual message.

I wonder if the voice has become less and less real to them, like it has for me. Because you don’t hear it every day. Just the same voice in the same tone saying the same message over and over. Until its not real, almost like a robot, so digital. But you still can’t get rid of it. Because once you do you have to admit that she’s really gone. There’s nothing left to prove that she exists. No way left to hear her voice.

“How do you know that they call?” I ask. “Do you see their missed calls on the phone?”

“I do,” she says. “Sometimes.”

Something about this comforts me. Because I’ve met her son. This grown man with this tough exterior. Something about imagining him missing his dad and calling his cell phone just to hear his voice comforts me. Its something I shouldn’t know about him. But its like we share this secret.

And all of these years I thought I had it so wrong.

“hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…”



  1. healinginthestorms · · Reply

    I lost my son Levi six yeas ago to a tragic traffic accident. I have his voice on a answering service tape. It is hard to hear his voice because I know I can’t go pick him and his friend up from the movies. it seems like so many years ago my son left me the message. He lost his cell phone in the lake but I have the memory of his voice.

    1. wow. thank you so much for sharing that. its good to know we’re not alone out here, grieving the way we do. i lost my sister 18 years ago in a car crash. when I call my house and hear her voice it feels like I’m just going to go home later and she’ll be there.

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