Jim Croce’s “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)” came on the car radio a few days ago. It’s hard to believe that song is more than 50 years old and that Croce, the popular folk/rock singer with his trademark handlebar mustache, died in a plane crash when he was just 30.
If you’ve never heard the haunting and bittersweet song, it starts out:
Operator, oh, could you help me place this call?
See the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s living in L.A.
With my best old ex-friend, Ray
That song came out the same time I was going through my military training and I remember guys lining up on Sunday nights at the phone booths to call home. You either called collect through the operator or used a pocketful of coins.
Since I had broken up with my college girlfriend (who did not move to L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray), it was Mom I always called.
I still do. Every Sunday. Sometimes on other days, too, but every single Sunday I call my mom, who is now 95.
One of us usually starts out with, “Well, I don’t know very much.” But it’s good to hear each other’s voice, regardless if there is news.
That tradition (which I’m sure is shared by other families) continues with our three kids, too.
There was a time when our daughter was living only a block away from Wrigley Field, our younger son was bunking in the same exact frat room where I did as a senior at I.U. and our older son was rubbing it in about his warm temperatures in Houston during our cold winters.
I loved to imagine where they were during those Sunday catch-ups — Jen looking out from her second-floor porch and seeing the home of the Cubs, Tom studying hard in the same room where I strived for my Bs and Cs and Steve so far away from home but sounding like he was next door.
Cell phones have made this all easier.
And those days of standing in line and waiting for your turn at the pay phone are long gone. Heck, you don’t even have to dial if you ask your smart phone to make the call.
I’m not a big fan on how much some people are on their cell phones but they are good for me on Sundays.
What hasn’t changed is my mom’s voice reminding me where I came from and who I really am. Our conversation sort of sets my compass for the upcoming week.
So like I have done thousands of time before, I called my mom this last Sunday.
I was thinking our conversation is one of the highlights of her week. I sometimes wonder if she sits with her phone by her side waiting for the call from her firstborn — her No. 1, me.
She answered on the fifth ring this time. “Hey, honey, can you call back after the Purdue game is over?” she said.
“Oh, OK,” I said, before she clicked off.
Damn Boilermakers (who did win the Big 10 with Mom watching). Well, at least I hadn’t been standing in line outside the barracks waiting for the pay phone to call her.
Love you, Mom. I assume I’m still No. 1. But then so is Purdue in the NCAA bracket.
I guess I better check when they are playing next Sunday before I call.