Phone, Lost

My i-phone and I became separated today.

Using my wife’s phone I tried calling mine. The call went to Voicemail. A voice invited me to leave a short 10-second message for Howard. On the spur of the moment I couldn’t think of any short ten-second message I needed to send myself. I couldn’t think of a long ten-second message either.

I searched my memory. Where had I been?

I’d driven to the  movies. 

I searched the car.

I sat in the car and called myself. 

I remembered then I’d switched the phone to ‘vibrate’. I heard no ring tone. I left no message.

I called the cinema. 

The menu invited me to press 2 to speak to a human. The human was a young man who asked me to describe my phone.

I think it’s an i-phone.

You think it is an i-phone, sir?

I think so… it’s small… portable. You can make calls… there’s internet…

You’re not sure it’s an i-phone?

Is there another sort? It’s small. You can fit it in your pock…

No one’s handed in an i-phone today sir.

I left my wife’s number.

Next stop the supermarket. 

The young man had acne. He was kind. He searched Lost Property. The phone wasn’t there.

I thanked the young man and prowled the aisles in which my wife and I had shopped. It wasn’t where we’d selected celery and leeks, it wasn’t amongst the lentils, not with the fat-free milk, not with eggs.

I returned to my friend with the zits: May I leave you my number?

Certainly sir. I’ll take it down.

I gave him my number. Later, in the sanctuary of my home, I realised how unhelpful it was to leave my number: the caller would receive the call intended for me.

That phone costs me money. I have a Plan, I have Bundling, I have Home Internet, a fax number (yes, by means of fax I receive documents from fellow antediluvians.) I pay for all of these. I am bewildered by the Plan, the Bundle, the two separate bills for Internet. I pay the bills.

Hours passed. During the Separation, time has passed peacefully. I called my friend at the Supermarket. 

No news, I’m afraid sir.

If you do find it, I’ll pay you to keep it. 

The young man carbuncular laughed: You’re not being serious, sir.

I wasn’t sure.

My wife sent a text message to my phone: This phone has been lost. If you see this text please respond. Thank you. 

My wife joined me in the garden, bearing her phone and a smile of satisfaction. 

It’s at the cinema.

As I drove to the cinema I remembered visiting the Gents’ toilets. My cubicle was a pool of urine. Using toilet paper I bent to the task of mopping and cleaning and drying. Whenever I bend in these slim fit trousers things fall from my pocket.

At the cinema the young lady asked: How are you going today? 

Thank you for asking: not much different to when you asked me how I was this morning.

She smiled. 

I enquired after my phone.

The young lady went to an office and returned with a small phone. 

Is this your i-phone, sir?

I recognised the photo of my granddaughter’s school sweater (she doesn’t want her likeness looked at without license from her, so we agreed I could show her tummy in school uniform.)

Yes, that’s it.

I thanked the young lady, who smiled again..

In the course of the Separation I’d missed some calls. Happily, Voicemail had rescued the following:

Hello Doctor Goldenberg. How are you today? I’m calling from Amex to invite you to give feedback…

Hello Howard. How are you today? This is Alex. I’m calling from Telstra with our Special Offer…

Hello Doctor. Long time no talk. This is Sal from American Express. How are you today?

To all my callers, I’m well thanks. And my i-phone is well and truly back.  

Mum Interviews God

Friday, eighteen minutes before sunset. Mum stands before the candelabra, strikes a match, holds it to the wick, pauses and watches until a flame rises, blue at the wick, yellow at the fringe.  She applies the same match to a second candle, which obliges with a sturdy flame just in time for Mum to drop the match-end that was about to burn her. She lights the third and last candle. Again she watches briefly, now drops the match and holds her hands – cupped palms upward – above the dancing flames. Now starts the ballet I have witnessed and loved since earliest childhood, as Mum’s hands move up, then down, up again and down, then a third rise and fall, as she caresses air and brings up the light of Shabbat.

Mum’s hands move to her face and shield it from sight. I won’t see Mum’s face again until she completes her interview with God. She whispers a blessing. Then silence. What is she doing? Unlike us boys Mum does’t wear her religion on her sleeve, nor, for that matter, on her head. Mum’s discourse is free of theology. She is not one for external display. But this moment – these moments – she dedicates to One who is outside and above that world in which she cooks and reads and dreams and loves. 

I wait. We all wait. All of us, her four children, our father, smelling the smells of the sabbath meal, all suddenly ravenous. We’ve recited our prayers, we’re ready. But we must wait while Mum talks to God. Mum lowers her hands, turns to us, “Good shabbos, darlings.” Her eyes shine behind tears.

Eighteen minutes before sunset on a Friday, sixty-five years on. Mum stands before the candelabra, takes a match and strikes a flame. This is no longer a simple act: to do this, to light the candles one by one, to judge when to hold the burning fragment and when to drop it, Mum must release her grip on the kitchen bench. Since the haemorrhage that tore through the back of her brain, none of Mum’s motor functions is simple: to stand, to remain standing, to direct the fingers to strike a match, to light a candle, to articulate words, every act a challenge to be met and overcome. The three candles rise, yellowblue, to Mum’s wavering matchstick. She drops the match and now her hands caress air. Once, twice, three times, those slender hands, those long fingers still graceful, rise and fall. Now the hands rise to Mum’s face and hide it, and we hear her whisper the words. No sound now as we watch and wait.

After one of these lengthening quiets, I ask Mum what it is that demands so much of the Creator’s time. “What are you saying, Mum?” 

“I’m asking God to care for you all, darling.”

Mum has four children. She had a husband but he died a few years ago. She has grandchildren who have become adults, she has a rising score of great-grandchildren, she’s accumulated children-in-law, grandchildren-in-law. Every one is precious, each has individual needs, each must be singled out and presented to God for blessing. Blessings must be tailored: Heal this one, strengthen that one, protect that third, comfort him, calm her, bring them peace.  

We wait and we wait. Mum and God have much to discuss, as God’s old friend comes to Him again with her weekly agenda of love.