hear your voice

My grandma called me today. I missed the call only noticing it 30 minutes later. At 93 paralyzed on half of her body from a stroke years ago, it’s a feat of will that she wrestled with technology to call me. I generally hate phone calls. I find them awkward and exhausting with every non verbal cue stripped away. I feel as if I’m trapped in a conversation and never seem to know how to properly wrap up a call in a reasonable amount of time.

I was nervous to call her back. Was something wrong? It’s rare that we ever talk on the phone. I opt for a more comfortable medium that’s easier for her — weekly cards filled to the brim with as much as I can reasonably share. They are usually notes of appreciation with a few questions I wish I could ask her and a snippet from my life.

At the same time, I miss her immensely. Over the last few years, I’ve started recording some of my conversations with her. I got her consent by recording her saying something, playing it back, explaining how the technology worked, and asking if that was okay to do for our conversations. “Do whatever you want — I’ll be gone!” Below is that recording:

I’ve been returning to those recordings of our conversations recently. My favorite is one where I had her take a really long personality quiz. She was such a good sport about it. I could tell she was truly indulging my curious mind even as she repeatedly asked how many more questions there were left.

I called her back a bit nervous which I know sounds irrational. It’s my truth though. I overanalyze what I say, worry about whether she can hear me, feel conscious about how technology truly isn’t built with her in mind, and feel the heartbreak of not being able to simply see her. As the phone rang, I reminded myself to speak slowly and loudly.

“I love getting your cards but I just wanted to hear your voice so I thought I’d call you.”

A big smile filled my face. I told her I was cheating and listening to previous recordings of our conversations. I still don’t know how well she understands the recordings but she laughed anyway. I told her how precious they were to me and how much I wished I could hear her stories in person right now.

It’s impossible to write about this without a few tears. Since the pandemic started, I have feared her dying alone and not having a true, meaningful goodbye. My grandfather spoiled me with his before he died and I selfishly want the same with her. She’s my favorite buddy even if our values and perspectives are often worlds apart. Perhaps that’s why she is my favorite buddy too. We still find a way to connect across differences in age, values, and hearing abilities ;).

She told me that she’s been enjoying watching golf re-runs. I laughed — I’ve been doing the same thing with Women’s Soccer re-runs. While she spoke about how neat it was to rewatch tournaments she remembers watching years ago, I shared how amazing it was for me to watch games from the early 1990s for the first time. When I asked her how she was managing being so isolated, she acted like she wasn’t bothered. While she is quite close to being an atheist hermit of sorts, I can’t help but feel it’s a brave face she’s putting on. As she might say, “What other option is there but to get on with it?”

Her voice started to struggle and fade by the end of the conversation. I could hear her choke up as we echoed our goodbyes to each other, “I love and miss you so much.” I hope she didn’t hear me fighting back my own tears. She told me she’d call again soon (yet she says isolation isn’t getting to her).

The beautiful part about this is that my grandma hates phone calls too. I’ve asked her about it of course. I feel so lucky to be loved enough by someone who calls anyway just for the chance to hear my voice.

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