Location: marengo, il, United States

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

In Remembrance

Joel has kept himself and our family busy during his leave from military duties. My head spins from the steady stream of his friends that drop by the house. One lively mob rang the front doorbell yesterday around one in the afternoon, so I pulled myself away from the desk to go answer the thing. The one ringing the bell I mistook for another pal of Eli named Ned the Dread; the other three I didn’t recognize at all. But all four had friendly grins so I unlatched the storm door and let them all in. Andy, as I remembered his name much, much later, correctly introduced everyone to me. We all shook hands while I struggled to keep track of the new people, and then he (Ned who is really Andy) asked,

“Is Joel here?”

They all desired to know that information by the expressions they wore. I let the cat loose by admitting he lay asleep in his room still, but as soon as those words escaped the son appeared from around the corner. He looked as much surprised as much as he did pleased.

I have yet to decide what got him out of bed -- the doorbell, the loud laughter of the gang or the talk of pizza. But in less than five minutes the house quieted down after the Joel and his herd left in search of fun. It was about twenty minutes later when Mandy showed up.

“Is Joel here?”

I unlatched the door for the second time and let her come inside where I gave her the facts about Joel. She made a show of disappointment and then complained they had a date. Well, I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I recalled the cell phone and how most of these kids have one in their pockets nowadays, so I made a suggestion.

“Why don’t you call him on his cell phone?”

That is a common phrase around here, so I had no trouble saying it at all. Then the phone rang. The real phone, that is -- the one hanging on its base in the kitchen. Well, it isn’t as real as those old black rotary phones, nor as large or sturdy, but it is all we have at the present. So I go to answer that while Mandy leaves to go find her personal whatever-you-call-it phone she had left in her car.

“Is Joel there?”

No, I told my wife. The Joel is not here. He left with Ned and some other friends to go eat pizza. That gave her some immediate worries.

“Ned? Why is he not in school?”

I had no answer, which is fairly typical around here. So I told her exactly that, which is a fairly typical answer, too. But that answer didn’t satisfy her at all, which never surprises me either.

Anyway, she told me some other stuff which I don’t recall, and then she left me alone so she could go file books and tell students to keep the chatter down. Mandy greeted me again with a nod as I walked back in the living room. She had that “hold on -- I’m on the phone” look so I went searching for my coffee cup while she “accessed” my most-forgetful son. After that we sat and talked for a while.

Mandy is a great conversationalist. She told all about her college and how that goes. We shared dreams for the future and told each other stories of the past, and both of us had a thoroughly good time. At one point I recall exclaiming.

“Why, Becky, that is so true and blah-blah-blah (here my mind fixated on something amiss; what is wrong, I wondered?).

A half-hour later I realized it, so I apologized to her. Nice kid, Mandy. She acted like she didn’t remember me saying that.

Now I need to speak to Andy, who is most likely thinking,

“Is Harry there?”


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