Always There

I can remember the days when cell phones did not exist. I can remember standing in line at a public phone booth waiting my turn to make a call. Stacking up my quarters and waiting in anticipation was just part of living. The importance of someone being there to answer my call was yet another matter.

payphoneThings are different as far as the number of devices we have now to communicate. Cell phones, computers, palm pilots and fax machines enable us to reach out to others, both for business and pleasure. There was a commercial in the late nineties promoted by AT&T, using the phrase “reach out and touch someone.” I always liked these words and believed in them.

Getting back to the concept of someone being there to answer my call is what I would like consider in this writing. With all the modern devices including answering machines and services (and more each day) it is possible to still receive a message even though one does not actually answer the phone. But I remember the days without these conveniences and how important hearing a voice at the other end of the line was to the caller.

Being there and receiving a call from my husbands, John and Jack, has been a gift to me. I have been blessed with their concern and availability. Many times we would arrive at a prearranged time to call one another and other times calls would be placed with no such commitment. The “Hello” would bring peace, joy, happiness and security to my world. This gift could quiet fears that I may have felt while being away from home and created a calmness in my being. I am thankful to them for this gift.

Not only does a voice bring joy, but just the concept of dependability creates a happy feeling. Being able depend on someone to be there for us is wonderful. I can only imagine the depths of disappointment when no one picks up the phone. Loneliness could set in with doubt and despair leaving one empty.

Others have also been there in my life with their animated voices lighting up the line. Words of encouragement, sharing a special moment or reliving a memory are all made possible by just answering a phone call. How terrible not to have someone to reach out to who will be there when we call.

When my son was twelve his baseball coach “Joe” committed suicide. He was a talented young baseball player who had hoped to play professional baseball. Seasonal injuries had plagued this young man evidently resulting in the breakup of his engagement to a local girl. Thus, on a cold, dismal November day, he drove to a secluded tree-lined park and hung himself from the branch of a tree near his car. Observers said that the car door remained open almost as though he could have stepped back in should his mind have not been made up to carry out his suicide plan.

John came home from middle school, sobbing and reporting that the school principal had announced that afternoon about the tragedy. This announcement left devastated children like my son to go home, many to empty houses with working parents not home, to digest what happened. I later called the principal to complain as to how this tragic event was handled, but that is another story.

I believed, as a parent, that making the point of reaching out, no matter how troubled a person could be was an important message at the moment. I remember sitting on the sofa and pulling my child close, telling him that he never had to truly be alone — calling 911 or the operator was always an option.

Years later, I relive this moment. Now phones travel in coat pockets, on belts, in purses and even plugged into ears with no receiver necessary. Maybe our world has gone to the extreme of too much availability. Like many others, I become irritated when a cell phone rings in church or a restaurant, distracting me from my mission. But on the other hand, perhaps if these conveniences existed twenty years ago, Coach Joe’s tragedy could have been avoided. I think the answer here, like many things, is balance. We all need to be personally responsible in finding this balance in our own daily lives.

Always being there has been a gift to me from many people. I thank them for this and hope that when their calls have come to me, that I have been there for them. We never know how important our voices are unless we use them. Sharing our lives with those we love can make very long, lonely days brighter as we create our own sunshine in words. Be sure to thank those people in your life who are always there . . . I have.

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

Comments (1)

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  1. Jen says:

    Hi Maryann!
    Just a quick note to tell you that I am thinking about you while you guys are in Italy (WOW!) and that I know it is tough for you to be away when JT is going through such a rough time. I have said to him a few times “this too shall pass”…and I am amazed at his resiliency with so many tough days in a row he has had. And…happy it is almost over. The letter he wrote to Kelly was cleansing and cathartic for him, I know…and tough to read.

    But moving on to a brighter subject, I loved, LOVED your last 2 stories, the Sept 11th tribute and the one about modern day communication and finding a balance. Loved reading about how happy (and grateful) you are to claim 2 husbands that were supportive and CARING communicators for you. Like I have now in JT (well, not a husband, but my partner I should say!) 😉

    Keep safe in Italy and safe return home friend!


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