Loving family members, their quirks and all

By Aimée Cartier

Sometimes the things you love about people aren’t the things you thought you would love at all. Take my dad, for instance. He has this quirky habit of calling me during the 7 a.m. hour.

It started about 17 years ago when I left home for college. During those years when the phone rang at that hour, all I could ever think was, “Stop the ringing. Stop the ringing.”

I would stumble out of bed barely aware of myself just to get ahold of that object that was shouting loudly from across the room.

“Hi honey. Just called to see how you are doing,” my dad would say from the other end of the line.

“Dad! It’s 7:15 a.m.! Ask yourself instead what I might be doing right now!”

Later, when I was home for a visit, I would prompt him with questions like, “How many college students do you know who are awake at 7 a.m.?”

Of course, he could always point to the fact that I was…. I had answered the phone.

It wasn’t like he called me every morning or even every week at that time. It was more like an every few months tick. He was up. He was thinking of me. He called. It was that simple. Unlike now, then, he didn’t even have the time zone excuse to fall back on. He knew what time it was in my dorm room — the same time it was at his house: 7:15 a.m.

This morning I was lying in bed awake when I remembered my dad’s old habit. I was in that luxurious just-after-sleep-state where you’re laying there, enjoying the feel of your bed, the thoughts of your dreams, the silence….

When, “RING!!!!!!”

I realized just how loud the phone sounds when it is only a few feet away from your head.

“RING!!!!!!” It went again.

I thought. “It could only be a member of my family.”

My dad, or my sister Jackie — surely. Jackie had also inherited that “call you when I’ve got something to say regardless of the hour” gene. But she always waited until after 8 a.m.

I glanced at the clock. 7:20 a.m.

“Dad.” I thought.

The funny thing with these two is that even though they call you at these crazy early hours, they never start out their conversations with, “Sorry to call you so early.” There is absolutely no acknowledgement of the fact that your body might still be computing its need to get vertical.

Instead they say things like, “Did you get aunt Nadine’s e-mail about Grandma?” Or, in the case of my sister, “What is the difference between whey protein and soy protein?”

No, “Hi. Good morning. Hey, were you asleep? I just have a quick question.”

I suppose they don’t want the answer. They must know it’s possible that I was sleeping. But they called anyway. They wanted me to be a part of their lives — of that moment. They literally couldn’t help themselves. I guess that’s what endears me to these crazy early morning phone calls. I like feeling that even though I live states away I can still go grocery shopping with my sister. I like thinking that my dad, who has probably been up for hours, just called when he felt like it cause he had something to say.

Of course, it doesn’t always make me answer the phone — even if I’m already awake.

But this morning after I heard the fifth ring letting me know I had a voicemail, I wasn’t surprised to hear my dad’s voice in the message.

“I just wanted to know if you are getting aunt Nadine’s e-mails, reference Grandma,” he said in his matter-of-fact way. He actually said that — “reference Grandma!”

“Give me a call and let me know. Or send me an e-mail,” he concluded.

What a novel idea, Pop, an e-mail!

But still, lying there in bed with the phone at my ear, I felt oddly glad that he hadn’t just sent an e-mail. I laughed as I lay there hearing his voice come over the line.

“Still up to your old tricks!” I chided him later in the said e-mail.

“7:20 a.m. isn’t that early,” he responded with no hint of apology.

—Aimée Cartier is a writer living on Vashon.

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