I Wish It Were Fiction

Disclosure: Names have been changed to protect, no, to disguise the truth just a tad.

I pushed the programmed key that says “Dublin” on my cell phone in the list of favorites. It’s right after my husband, sons, and sisters’ phone numbers, and right before my next-door neighbor. My aunt and uncle.

Actually, I didn’t expect anyone to answer, but most likely I surprised the one who said, “Hello?” Most likely he didn’t recognize my phone number when he answered, but then maybe he did. His voice turned immediately grumpy.

“Uncle Wayne, it’s Squirt. How are you doing?” No response.

(On one recent phone call, his response was “Squirt who? I don’t know any Squirt.” Squirt is the moniker he gave me as a child and has always called me. I can’t recall any time I’ve ever heard him call me Denise, and to think of how many laughs he could have had all these years introducing me as his “niece Denise.” He favorably called me Squirt instead and has told me countless times—even well into my forties—in his giant bear-hug style, “You’re my baby. You’ve always been my baby.” Yet, on that day he didn’t know anyone called Squirt.

“Are you enjoying this beautiful day?” I tried to ease into a conversation with him.

My uncle said, “I don’t know.”

“Well, I hope you get a chance to go outside and enjoy it. It’s beautiful out.”

Then, “Here’s Lila. I’m busy.” The phone went dead.

I thought about it for a second. Did he hang up on me? Did he hand the phone to my aunt, who perhaps grabbed it the wrong way and hit the disconnect button? Were we mysteriously cut-off by some technological mishap? Most likely, the first question is the answer.

I could have left it at that and said that at least I tried to call, at least tried to make contact. But I didn’t. I’m not willing to give up on a lifetime of love and caring over some old man’s misunderstanding, so I redialed the number.

Just as I expected, no answer this time. It rang several times until the answering machine picked up. “You have reached 4-0-4…”

Here goes, I thought. I said, “Aunt Lila? It’s Denise. I was calling to see how you’re doing. *swallow* Uncle Wayne? I wish I knew why you were treating me this way. If you’re trying to hurt my heart, you’re successful. I just wanted to call and tell you that I love you. That’s all I can do.”