My boys sat on the couch, their long summer legs covered in mosquito bites and sunshine. They squirmed against the waves of the morning and stretched in every direction with one fluid movement growing forever outward. It was the dance of their awakening, and the beat was implied. I handed the phone to my youngest and told him to push “call.” It was Grandpa’s birthday, and it was time to get into character.
“Hello,” said the voice from the speaker. It was loud and clear, as if he was standing in the room next to us and not down one highway and then another, across towns, counties, and a dusty state line where the view of the sun was from a slightly different angle.
“Who is this?” he asked as he always does. I do that, too. Who it is is obvious.
There have been a few occasions where the question skipped my mind—I may have been busy with one thing or another, or perhaps the humor just wasn’t there.
“Ask who this is,” he would say, and then he would wait until I did so. He is accustomed to the finer things in life.
“It’s Zane,” he laughed. He always laughs.
My dad laughed, too, and then they exchanged the required pleasantries.
My oldest took his cue and joined in the conversation.
What followed was a song sung sweetly by two little boys to a man that they love, and then the hollow sound of a check being written for copyright infringement. It was worth it.
“What are you doing for your birthday?” I asked.
“Oh, not much,” he said. And he meant it.
I should have sent a card.
We talked a little longer, three generations wrapped in a rat race, and we said our goodbyes like we always do, with promises to visit and calendars to break them.
I wished him happy birthday before we hung up, and the moment hung there on the line.
“Thank you,” he said. And he meant that, too.
We all did.