The Right Wrong Number

I picked up my home phone message when I returned from my bike ride. I recognized the voice immediately, though it sounded frail and more shaky than I remembered.

“Phil, it’s me. I’m at the Rockyview.”

I’d forgotten about her.

Back when the kids were little, I’d get a call once in a while.

“Hello, Phil?”

“No, you have the wrong number.”

“I’ve been dialling this number a long time.”

“Maybe you accidentally hit a different digit. What’s the number?”

And we’d go on like that for a bit. I always assumed she was trying to dial her son.

She reminded me of my grandmother, Nan E. My sister and I referred to Mom’s mom as Nan E and Dad’s mom as Nan O.

Nan E had passed away shortly after we moved into our new home, so the calls from the elderly woman seeking Phil felt like a check-in from Nan E.

I’d always help the lady to double check her number and dial again. Sometimes she called right back, other times I wouldn’t hear from her again until maybe a few months or years later.

Hearing her voice on my phone messages reminded me that I hadn’t heard from her in years. And yet this day she calls. This day when Nan O has just passed away at the age of 91. This day, the day before I would join my family in a small gathering to honour Nan O.

Nan’s voice had also sounded frail the last time we’d spoken over the phone. She’d returned from hospital after breaking her hip. My son and I planned to drive the hour and a half to see her but she was back in hospital before we could go. The pandemic made our visit impossible.

I was cleaning up the kitchen when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number so I quickly answered.

“Phil? I’m at the Rockyview.” She sounded tired.

“Well, hello there. It’s been a long time since you and I have spoken. You’ve misdialled. What is Phil’s number?”

“Oh, I think this is it.”

“No, but if you tell me Phil’s last name, I will try to track down his number for you.”

“It’s a she. Phyllis.”

“What’s Phyllis’ last name?”

She gave me her last name and I scrolled through my phone to no avail.

“I’m not going to keep you on the line.” I wanted so much to help her and I wasn’t sure how much longer she could accept phone calls. It was 7:45pm. “I will track down Phil and tell her you are at the Rockyview. What’s your name?”

“I’m Norma.”

“Okay, Norma, I will find Phyllis for you.” I hung up and continued to scroll my phone. Useless!

I ran downstairs to my laptop, determined to sleuth out the number. Her name appeared in an obituary as the sister of the deceased. Okay, well, she exists. Where is her number? I demanded of the interwebs. 411 was no help.

Finally, I found it! I dialled.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Phyllis?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know a Norma?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ve known Norma for years, only because she misdials you from time to time and gets me. She just called to say she is in the Rockyview Hospital. I wanted to make sure she got through to you.”

“Well, Norma has dementia. She has been falling lately. I’d hoped she wouldn’t have any more spills, well… it’s a long story that I won’t keep you with.”

“I love a good story. I’m happy to listen.”

“Norma and I have been friends since age 11. We both celebrated our 85th birthdays this month. Hers was yesterday. “

“Wow. Happy birthday to you! Age 11? How wonderful.”

“Yes, you’d think she’d remember my number after 74 years.” Phyllis laughed. “How did you find me? You know I never answer when it’s a number I don’t recognize, but this time I decided to pick up.”

“I’m glad you did. It took a bit of searching, but I was determined to get Norma’s message to you.”

“You know, Norma and I lived very different lives. I was more of a world-traveller. We got to talking a while ago and we decided there were 2 things we’d yet to do: neither of us had children nor ended up in jail.”

It was my turn to laugh.

“But,” she continued. “I mentioned that to my doctor and she figured I still had time to land in jail.”

“I’m sure you girls have great stories to tell. If you ever want to share them, I’d love to hear them.”

“I’m going to keep your number handy just in case.”

“You’d better, because when you end up in jail, you’ll need someone to post your bail.”

I can only imagine the stories that Norma and Phyllis have to tell. My heart is full to have joined their story for those brief moments.

I’m good, Nan O. Thanks for checking on me. ❤

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