Long Distance Call

by David P. Stern

The phone rang: "Hello?"

    "Hi there, just me. Your mother. Still remember me?"

    It sounded just like another one of her evening calls from New York, after dinner, whenever she felt lonely or inquisitive. Except, of course, she was no longer of this world. My mother had passed away--how long now?--almost a year ago. Yet here was her voice, no question.

    "Hello? Hello? Are you there?"

        "Mother? That's you?"

    "Of course it's me. Can't you hear me?"

        "But... How can that be? Who is it then that was buried in the cemetery?"

    "Don't be silly. My body, of course. But my soul is OK. If you only knew how much trouble it took me to make this call."

        "How are you, mother? Where are you?"

    "Don't ask stupid questions. I am fine--it's just that, well, I can't do all what I used to. It's like being very old, only more so: you can watch whatever you want, and whoever you want, but you can't do anything."

        "Are you happy?"    

    "Well, I watch you, I watch your family... so many things I could tell you, things you could do, to avoid all that trouble. But I can't now. Not that you would have listened, you never did even when I was around. Always a mind of your own, a head like a rock, always had to learn the hard way."

        "I have done a few things on my own, published articles... "

    "Yes, you have, and I am enormously proud. But that does not mean you could not do better. Look at the clothes you wear, for instance."

        "It is summer, mother, it is hot."

    "Sure. Still, some newer shoes, not these old ones, which you keep fixing with glue, like you were a shoemaker. And new shirts. Look at your collars, how ragged they are."

        "Mother, do you know? The book about your mother finally came out."

    "Yes, I know, even looked at it. Isn't it wonderful? Mother likes it too, very much. Although she said there are many things in it which the editors did not get right. But it makes no difference now."

        "Does grandmother remember me?"

    "Of course. I told you, there is nothing much to do here but watch people. Some day there will be nobody down below whom we had known personally, and I can't imagine what I will watch then... but we'll see. In due course."

        "Do you feel happy, mother?"

    "What nonsense. Just take care of yourself and I will be happy. See that your kids do not run around like slobs. Get their hair cut.... Yes? "

        The last word seemed directed to someone else, not me.

    "Hello? Listen. There are too many other people waiting to use this line, I cannot hold it too long. Take good care, and go to the cemetery, sometimes. Never mind the Kaddish or candles, just visit me. And I will be watching you." A click on the line and then the dial tone.

        When my wife came home from the bridge game she asked, as usual, "Anybody called?"

    I looked at her: would she understand? Naah.

        "No, nobody," I said. "A quiet evening."


Return to listing of Jewish Heritage

Author and Curator:   Dr. David P. Stern     
     Mail to Dr.Stern:   david  ("at" symbol)  phy6.org      .

Last updated 15 August 1996