Monday, January 12, 2009

A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet

In 1998 I moved out of my parents' house and got my very own phone number. From the start I received many phone calls for the people to whom the number had previously belonged, and to this day still receive one occasionally.

In November of 2003 I picked up the phone to hear an older gentleman ask for 'Jackie'. I politely explained this was no longer her number, and as I often did with people who called for her I said "You know, funny thing, I've had this number for (X amount of years) and still get calls for her." The people would say "Sorry for your trouble", and hang up. This time was different. "Well, Jackie is my niece and I haven't talked to her in a long time. I was calling to wish her happy holidays. I used to live there in Middletown, but I moved to Tennessee. The weather stays warmer longer. Do you live in Middletown?" I could tell by his voice he was lonely. I told him that I did. "I used to go to church out on Klingam Road. Is that church still there?" Near as I knew it was not, and I told him so. He sounded disappointed. "There used to be a Ralph Anderson that lived out there. You know him? No? Well how about a Paul Flannagan?" I did not want to continue disappointing my new friend so I said the name sounded familiar. "What's the weather like up there? Ohio winters always were bad." I told him it was cold, but we had not yet had any snow. I asked about the weather in Tennessee. "Oh, I'm sitting on the porch in my shirt sleeves. I'm a carpenter. Did you know that?" Of course I didn't, but I was becoming more interested in this stranger's life than I was in the lives of many people I knew. "Yes siree I am! I built this here rockin' chair that I'm a rockin' in right now. Been a carpenter all my life. Retired now, but I still like to do a little. I'm 73. My wife died last winter. In February." Things made a little more sense to me. This man was so lonely he reached out to talk to a stranger when he did not find the person he was looking for. This went on for 3 years. Practically the same conversation every time. I didn't mind. I was as lonely as he in many ways. I did not hear from him last November nor this November. I wish I would have written his number down. Sometimes I could use a stranger to talk to. I wonder if he is okay. I miss my friend.

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