My friend, Pia, wrote on Facebook yesterday, “Last night: a lovely, long chat on the phone with my fashion designer daughter, Ms. Rachel, all the way from Manhattan. Her voice was gleaming with happiness. Mine was the hungry ear.”
Well, mine too, Pia. My two Manhattanites left my building last Monday — leaving a decided hole in my Michigander week. Back to their Brooklyn coops, their Manhattan projects.
For me, back to the hungry ear.
I envy Pia her frequent telephone talks with her five children. Although one of my daughters loves to talk, I don’t often get the information I want. Is the neighborhood safe this week after the shooting outside your building, for example. My children take up the conversation with anything but how they are surviving. And more often they insist on texts and tweets as their lives are oh, so busy. An ear could starve via Internet as well.
Mary, user experience researcher who travels, wife and recently, mother, makes my ear hungry. Everyone knows Mary doesn’t talk on phones when not at work. Her husband, Steve, confirms that. My ear would starve if I waited for phone calls from Mary. Her busy schedule allows a few texts or emails a month. I miss the verbal communication, but I am getting better at reading between the lines of the two- to five-word cryptic messages I do get.
Mary: “Austin tomorrow. Back end of week.”
Me: “Take care.”
I feel I now have successfully taken on the shorthand of texting.
Me: “How is Steve? Cats? You?”
Mary: “OK. Hotter than hell here.”
When the texts get so short I can’t discern the topic, or texting ceases for a week or two, I text, “Hellllllooooooooo!” That always gets a rise out of both my daughters.
“You do know I am in a meeting, in meditation, feeding the baby, ranting on Facebook? Pleeeeaaasse! Have a heart.”
Jenny, my yoga-bending, health care system planner, will talk on the phone, but not about surviving or her welfare. She can kill 90 minutes covering New York real estate trends and her plan to retire at 40. (Two years to go.) When I do get a word in, I ask, “How is your health?” I get “Fine.” For fun, I introduce my brilliant plan for she and Mary to purchase a condo in the tropics for which I will be live-in proprietor. That discussion is considerably shorter — maybe five minutes.
The most frequent and heated discussion with Jenny involves her financial advice for my slim retirement pickings.
Jenny: “Invest, Mom. It’s the only way. You have to take a little risk.”
Me: “I’m past investing, dear. I’m spending it to live.”
Jenny: “Send me your portfolio. I’ll look it over and advise.”
Me: “Not going to happen. My Michigan advisors tell me to lay low and spend judiciously. By the way, where’s my condo at the beach?”
As grateful as I am for these communications with my grown children, short or long, they really are not enough for me. Hungry ear, indeed. How about hungry eye? And touch? And smell? I want to see their faces every day. I want to gaze into their eyes and detect whatever urban trauma I can wish away. (Facetime or Skype are out — God forbid anyone should see them ungroomed.)
I want to touch their bones. Check their hearts for murmurs. Move in with them.
Can an ear be that hungry? You betcha.
— Kaye Curren
Kaye Curren has returned to writing after 30 years of raising two husbands, two children, two teenage stepchildren, three horses, umpteen dogs and cats, and several non-speaking parakeets. She used to write computer manuals but now writes humor essays and memoir, including the essay, “Bumps in Whose Socks?” on this site, humorwriters.org. Find her musings at her website/blog at www.writethatthang.com