Present, October 15, 2011
It was one of those new fancy cell phones and I had been holding it in my hands all day for fear of missing her call. You see, there is a new person in my life and I have grown very fond of her, even though we’ve know each other only for a very short while. She was on vacation in France and I was attending a seminar in Montreal (Canada). In order not to disturb the speaker and the other participants, I had silenced the ringer and set the phone on vibrate only. She had been gone for a week and I’d had barely any news from her. I missed her a lot and I so wanted to hear the sound of her comforting voice. The plan was that she would call me whenever she could find a darn phone from where she was: the back woods of the south of France visiting old ”chateaux”, which may be beautiful country, but very bereft of hi-tech communication devices.
So when break time finally came and wondering why I had not heard from her, I checked my phone more closely and noticed a blue light flashing on the screen. It painfully got me right through the heart: she had found a phone, she had called and with awful disappointment, I realized that ”I had missed her call”.
Saturday, June 22nd, 1985
It was 11:00 p.m. and I was dreaming of the incessant irritating ring of a telephone, when I realized that it was in fact my phone ringing. So, trying my best to wiggle out of a deep sleep stupor, stumbling around, I reached as quickly as I could to answer it, but I was too late and the phone rang no more.
You see, due to the magic of modern technology, I was in the habit of transferring my home phone line to my office, so I wouldn’t miss any calls during the day. At night when I came back, I undid the process and I could pick up my personal calls from home. But for some God forsaken reason, that night I had forgotten to do the procedure. Little did I know at the time that this omission would have dramatic consequences on my life for years to come.
I will always remember that devastating Sunday morning, the knock on my front door and the young man holding his kepi under his arm, all dressed up in his formal army uniform saying in a nervous voice: ”Mr. Milot, I regret to inform you that your son, Steve, has passed away”.
Shock and disbelief cannot even come close to describing what I felt. It was like being hit in the forehead with a baseball bat. With wobbly, shaking legs, I very nearly fainted on my couch, too stunned to even cry.
Steve, my beautiful and gentle son was a soldier in the Canadian Army and at the time was in special training at the Suffield Alberta training camp. He was in the routine of calling me every night to chat of this and that, but due to a set of unfortunate dramatic circumstances, he was gone forever and ”I had missed his call”.
Strangely disturbed and destabilized, I had to leave the seminar early. With an ugly gut feeling, I hurriedly walked to my car and started the trip back home. As I was driving I could feel a storm building up threateningly inside of me. I have had these difficult grieving feelings often since my wife has passed away and I could feel I was in for a wild ride and it came with a vengeance.
As the kilometres faded away, I was more and more aware of a growing sense of dread chewing at my insides. Not too sure what it was all about, I let the sensations grow, until they eventually transformed into a kaleidoscope of unpleasant feelings and vague memories. I faintly assumed that these disturbing emotions had something to do with my new relationship and the bitter disappointment I felt for missing her phone call, but I was still puzzled that they were so out of proportion, the relationship was so new. How could these feelings be so intense? Nevertheless, it brought me to ponder on my decision to enter into a new relationship at this stage in my life. Did I want to set myself up to the insecurity and the roller coaster ride of adjusting to a new relationship and everything that it involved? After going through so much pain and sorrow when my wife passed away, did I want to run the risk of going through the same thing again? Will she be sick too? Will I be sick and impose this on her? Did I take the leap too quickly? So many questions to which I had no real answers, but the digging through my very core was having its effects and ultimately the cleansing tears came, at first just a trickle, but as time passed, they eventually turned into a real torrent abundantly rolling down my cheeks. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was happier since I’d met her. My life had meaning once more and offered so many new possibilities. I had lost all of this in the hollowness of widowhood. Yes, I concluded after some clarity had come through, it was worth every second of it. The enjoyment I felt being with her far outweighed the risk of reliving something that may never come anyway. I always followed my heart before and I was glad I did it again. But, in time, after the bizarre mixture of tears of joy and sorrow had cleared some of the confusion, I realized that the real pain hadn’t arrived yet. This was just a transition, the boost I needed to struggle and dig my way in deeper into my repressed past and I was dreadfully afraid that the real issue of my disconcerted state was yet to come. And it did.
As I progressed through my trials and tribulations, faded images of my son started to appear, and with a sorrowful aching heart, I realized how deeply I missed him. I thought I had made my peace with this, but apparently not. As the ride home painfully went on, I was flooded with memories that I had kept locked away securely for 27 years. Imagine, 27 years of guilt for not having de-transferred that stupid phone line and not being able to answer his call. Oh my God, so much pain. I was so overwhelmed by the immensity of it all, I was almost suffocating. I could not help but obsessively think that if I would have picked up his call that night, I may have dissuaded him of taking his friend’s place at touring the army base ground with the service jeep, the accident may not have happened and he could still be alive. I visualized him in a future that was not to be, walking happily through my front door with his wife and kids and saying in his usual manner that I loved so much, ”Hi Dad, how are you today!” I could imagine my big guy hugging me in his strong arms when my wife died and saying that it was OK to cry and tenderly bring me solace when I needed it the most. But it was not to be. Life had other plans for both of us. I hope it was all worth it. God only knows. Back home afterwards, I must have poured my heart out for hours, until eventually, the tears subsiding, I could find some kind of temporary relief.
Many days later, as I write these lines with cold and shaking hands, a soft tear still rolls down my cheek. The pain is still there, but I realize that it has eased off quite a bit. Will my soul ever find peace again? My heart says yes, and with time, hard work and Heaven helping, the healing will sooner or later set in.
All in all, the experience, although painful, was an enriching learning lesson. Looking at the bright side of things, I am reminded of my favourite quote that there are never any empty gestures in life, that everything has a price and a reward and that we all have to learn to look and listen carefully. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a glimpse of what it’s all about.
All that because of a couple of ”missed phone calls”.