These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

calling grandma

yesterday was valentine's day. it was also my grandmother's birthday. she turned 88.

i knew i had to give her a call but because she goes off to her daily activities at a center for the elderly and she gets back late in the afternoon, after i go to work, i knew ihad to get up extra early to catch her. and since she lives in central time zone, it was esier for me.

i caught her and we chatted for a few minutes. she's not big on phone conversations, at least not these days. she used to be great on the phone 10 or 20 years ago, but age has slowed her down.

as i dialed her number this morning, i realized something very interesting about my grandparents telephone number. it's the number that's been the longest in my memory. it goes back more than 20 years. i believe it may have even been the first number we ever called from our house.

even though i was born in the early '70s, we didn't have a phone at the ranch until the early '80s. i'm more than sure that we had phone service by the time i made it to seventh grade. we were way behind the times when it came to phone service.

i recall my mom had to get a petition going from many area ranches, none of whom had phone service. you have to realize that it's rural south texas, so pretty much anyone living in scattered ranches didn't have telephone service.

i don't remember what it was like without it, only that i don't know how we did it. i guess it goes to show you that it can be done. we survived a major hurricane back then without telephone service. also, the deaths of my grandparents who lived at the ranch. if something happened, it wasn't a matter of getting on the phone or flipping open a cell phone. we had nothing. i'm unsure of how it came about that an ambulance arrived to help take my grandfather and grandmother (these are my paternal grandparents and they are both dead). we lived six miles from the nearest town, so we were pretty much in the boonies.

when the petition finally got signed by more than 20 families, we went through the process of getting phone service, which took a little time, having to put up telephone poles and lines and then run them to houses.

but that first call...well, we called my grandparents (mom's parents) from my parents' bedroom. we had an old creme-colored rotary phone. we had that damned phone up until the 1990s, or some version of it. we didn't get phones with key pads until the mid-1990s. what a crazy concept, eh?

now, my parents have caller id, call waiting, two lines and no rotary phones.

one quick sidenote: my grandparents had the same rotary phone they got in the '70s up until the '90s. it was black and old as can be.


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