Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Gentleman Caller

I love human beings.

No particular make or model holds pride of place. I simply love “people”. I find them fascinating.

No two are alike. We each have unique features, habits, and personalities. That particular uniqueness is, perhaps, what I like best. To communicate well with people, it’s necessary to be open-minded, able to listen, and willing to accept those who are different than we are. Sometimes we’re as different as night and day. And that’s when our interactions are the most stimulating!

I answered the ringing phone, yesterday. There are times when that sound brings me instant irritation, especially when I’m under a deadline. That was my state of mind yesterday afternoon. I’d just finished a lunch meeting, and had sent my guests on their way. I cleaned up the kitchen and washed the dishes before sitting down at my desk to catch up on the day’s chores.

The telephone rang. I sighed.


“Yes, is this Jennifer?”

I breathed a sigh of relief. This would be a very short interruption, indeed.

“No, I’m sorry. This is Karen Pease. You must have the wrong number.”

“Oh, dear. I apologize. I’m returning a lady’s call, but I couldn’t quite make out all the numbers from the answering machine message.” The elderly man’s gentle voice conveyed his disappointment.

“Ooh, I hate it when that happens!” He had my commiseration, for sure.

“Are you at 628-2070?”

“Yep, that’s me.”

“Oh, dear...”

He really sounded quite dismal. And so… I thought I’d give him suggestions for how to find the lady’s number. I asked him whether or not he had a computer and if he knew how to use it. He informed me that he’d enrolled at UMA for computer classes, and had already completed one course. Proud as a peacock, he told me that it would be the 5th ‘senior citizen’ class he’d participated in at the college. He sounded so tickled with himself that I smiled. I have a hankering to return to school, myself, and I told him so.

It’s amazing how we humans communicate and connect. I spent the next 40 minutes having a delightful conversation with an 88 year old man who was a complete stranger. Note “was”, in the past-tense. We’re not strangers anymore. Before we hung up the phone, I discovered he was a WWII veteran, he’d been married twice, and he had seven children; two of whom had master degrees and one who is a doctor. He urged me to return to school if I wanted to, but told me to never disrespect myself for the fact that I didn’t have a college degree. He told me I probably had more common sense than many college grads, and used one of his daughters as an example! Oops…

He’s still good friends with both his ex-wives. They share children, and when there is a family affair, they all co-exist in harmony. My gentleman caller said he gave each of his ex-wives a unique gift. He paid for their cremations, recently. I had to laugh at that one, and did. We chuckled for several moments about his “thoughtfulness”. In reality, it WAS a considerate gift. He doesn’t want his children to be burdened with such a chore when their mothers pass away. He arranged everything so that all his kids will have to do is make one phone call, and someone else will take care of those sad details.

I found myself admiring him.

And Jennifer? She was an old love from his past… someone he met at a dance hall. A woman who was exciting and compatible and lovely. My poor gentleman came home to find a message on his machine from her, saying that she’s single, and she’s been thinking about him… so she did a little digging and found him. Would he please call her back, if he was interested in reconnecting?

What a conundrum! He was thrilled, happy, and kind of, well…charged up about it! I learned a couple of private details about her that made me giggle and blush. Details that made me want to say “You GO, Gramps!”

So, I said exactly that. We laughed some more.

But… he couldn’t understand her number, and he was afraid she wouldn’t call him back.

I assured him that she would. That he must be pretty special if she went to the trouble of finding him after so many years. I encouraged him to ‘google’ her and see if he could find out where she lived, which would enable him to call directory assistance, if her phone number wasn’t posted on the web.

And then, I asked him to let me know how he made out. Ah… no pun intended.

He gave me sweet advice, made me laugh, and caused a lump to rise in my throat, all in the space of 40 minutes. Forty minutes that I couldn’t spare—but I’m so glad I did. What a guy!

I never even got his name.