I should have answered

On New Year's Eve afternoon, just as I was heading out to the grocery store, my phone rang. A quick glance at the caller ID showed it was a friend from our old neighborhood. He's an older guy -- nearly everyone on our old street was retirement age or older -- and I figured he was calling because he and his wife finally had a chance to come see our house and he was hoping to arrange a visit.

See, not long after we moved to our new place three years ago, we held an open house for all our old neighbors so they could see why we left the neighborhood where we thought we, too, would grow old. We loved our former neighbors. They were the folks who saw the girls grow up, who shared their zucchini, tomatoes, ground cover and choke cherries, who took turns with us shoveling the sidewalks and driveways of those who were most infirm at the time of a big snow. So we held an open house to assuage the traitorous feeling Jim and I had for leaving them all. We knew that once they saw the house, they'd know why we moved away. Those who came understood.

But H, the man on my caller ID, and his wife were unable to make it to the open house. Mrs. H was sick and couldn't make it.

For more than two years after that, we'd touch base now and then, trying to arrange a visit. Mrs. H and I would e-mail back and forth, or we'd run into Mr. H as he drove past our house to visit a friend who lived nearby, or I'd see him at the grocery store. But schedules and Mrs. H's sickness kept getting in the way.

So I figured with the New Year's holiday, Mr. and Mrs. H had finally found an opportunity to check out our new digs. But I didn't have time, at that moment, to deal with planning a visit. I needed to get to the grocery store.

So I ignored the call.

On New Year's Day, H called again. Jim was in the shower and H was more his buddy than mine, so I again ignored the call and figured I'd have Jim call him later. I wanted Mr. and Mrs. H to visit, I just didn't want it to be that particular day.

Then, on Sunday morning as I read the newspaper, I came across the notice in the obituary section that memorial services were planned for Mrs. H for this Thursday. My heart went cold. Jim and I got the details from another former neighbor at church that morning: Mrs. H had succumbed to her emphysema and osteoporosis -- both so advanced that coughing fits from the emphysema resulted again and again in broken ribs and vertebrae due to the osteoporosis. Her body finally gave out.

That is why H was calling. Not to arrange a visit, not to share news of the old 'hood, not to intrude on our New Year's Day festivities. Simply to tell us his beloved wife of more than 40 years was gone.

And I ignored the call.

I know, I know ... I had no idea he was calling about such a serious issue. I'm not looking for absolution or justification. This isn't about me, it's about him. It's about a good, good man going down a list of folks to notify, making what must have been one of the most difficult, heartwrenching phone calls he's ever made in his life.

A phone call I should have answered.

Today's question from "If ... (Questions for the Game of Life)":

If you could have only one piece of furniture in your house, what would you want it to be?

I would want to keep a rocking chair -- the Shaker rocking chair that used to be my mom's, that I rocked away in while pregnant with Brianna and reading "The Stand" by Stephen King. I got the chair from her not long after that. I've rocked all my babies in it, rocked my cats in it, rocked myself in it again and again. I've been fortunate enough to have rocked my Bubby in it a time or two, and hope to have it around for rocking lots of grandbabies in the future.