Monday, May 14, 2007

How to torture a mother

I have just learned that there is a way to torture mothers even beyond the usual Mother's Day traditions of reminding them of all the amazing things that other mothers do.

I have a nineteen-year-old son who is currently serving a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Mexico. Missionaries are allowed to write home every week, although his letters always manage to ignore questions like "Are you getting enough to eat?" "Are you taking your medicine?" "Are you using bug spray?" Once he missed a couple of weeks of letters, and when we did finally get one, we learned that he had contracted dengue fever from mosquitoes. Yes, he really is on the other side of the world. They are only allowed to have phone calls a handful of times, namely Christmas and Mother's Day.

Last Christmas morning we got up early and called the number he had sent by email. We were given 45 minutes, and since other missionaries are waiting for calls, we had to get off when the time was up. But he'd only been gone a couple of weeks, so I didn't fully appreciate that call. This call though, Mother's Day, I'd been looking forward to for a long time.

I thought the instructions would come by email again, so was shocked to hear the words "Daniel called," when I got home from the gym last week. "Daniel called?" My stomach took a dive. "And I wasn't here?" My daughter told me not to worry, "We only talked for about ten minutes." I was sick. Ten whole minutes!

I spent the remainder of the week stewing over the missed call and anxious for the next one. Saturday night I put the calling card instructions, the paper with the number on it, and the phone, on the kitchen table. I checked to make sure all the numbers made sense (authorization code, country code, city code, etc.) He had told us to call at 7:30 Mexico time, 6:30 our time. So I was up at six (on Mother's Day, thank you very much.) By 6:20 I was at the table yelling to the rest of the family. At 6:29 we started dialing.

At first it went like this: punch in numbers--recorded voice tells us something--punch in more numbers--recorded voice tells us something--punch in more numbers--silence for about an entire minute--recorded voice tells us the number is invalid. Start over again.

Then, after about ten minutes, a voice said, 'Hola'. This call went like this:

Is Elder Reese there?
(Spanish)
Elder Reese?
(Spanish)
missionary?
(Spanish)
missionario?
(Spanish)
LDS CHURCH-O?
(Spanish)
WE ARE TRYING-O TO REACH-O OUR MISSIONARIO!
(Spanish)
REESE! ELDER REESE! POR FAVOR? GRACIAS?

Eventually the poor guy hung up.

We spent ten more minutes punching in another series of unsuccessful numbers until we finally reached the same guy, and had the same sorry conversation. Meanwhile, my precious 45 minutes were ticking away. We called the 800 number on the calling card, and the lady assured us we were doing it right.

Before calling our Mexican friend again, we decided to ask our Spanish-speaking neighbor to come over. His dad answered the phone, and when I opened my mouth to speak I bawled instead. My husband took the phone and explained the situation. They came running over in their pajamas.

At 7:00, half an hour late, tears flowing freely, we reached the man for the third time. Our neighbor asked for Elder Reese in Spanish, then held the phone out and said, "He's coming."

Like he couldn't tell we wanted him in our last two conversations? But never mind...

My son's voice finally came on, "Hello?"
"Daniel, is that you?"
"Yeah."
"What happened? Where were you?"
"You're supposed to call tonight."
"Tonight?"
"Yeah, 7:30 PM."
"Oh. Tonight. Really?"
"Yeah."
"Woops"
"Yeah."
"So you can't talk now?"
"No, gotta go."
"Oh......OK.....Bye.....I love you..."
"Love you Mom."

Here, just rip a fingernail off. It'll be less painful.

Then finally, a full twelve hours later, we learned that we had been calling the church house, and it was the branch president who had been trying to explain that Elder Reese wasn't there. He just happened to arrive at 8:00 for his church meetings, in time to answer our third call.

But the real call was worth the wait. The most fascinating part was that he was giving his typical mono-syllabic answers to all our questions, until we asked him to tell us something in Spanish. He talked for ten minutes! We finally stopped him, we got the idea. Then we asked him to summarize what he had just said, and he couldn't. He said he didn't know the English words.

I'm still trying to figure that one out, but I'm thinking I may need to take a crash Spanish-speaking course so that I can talk to my son when he gets back.

In the meantime, my heart goes out to all mothers and families with loved ones that are far away, be it on missions or the military. May your loved one be safe and your phone calls go through.

4 comments:

Vic said...

When I was in Japan in the last century, No-one made phone calls because a 3 minute call would cost more than mom and dad were sending me each month.

The only missionary I ever heard of getting a phone call from home was Spencer(you've met him). His dad called him to tell him his mother died. (we had been companions for a day).

We also didn't have the internet, we had to write letters on thin blue paper that was folded and sent at great cost and many days before mom could begin to attempt to decode my handwriting.

But...you are, after all, a mother, so you are entitled to suffer. So, please do so with joy.

Karen Hoover said...

Ack! My heart goes out to you! What a hilariously frustrating experience. I'd say it's definitely one for the annals of Reese history, wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

This story was an exact replica of my last phone call with our missionary in Mexico City West mission.(minus the neighbor). I laughed so hard I cried. Thank you for sharing with me. This mother's day is my last phone call. Thank heavens! I am ready!

laurie ockey (missionary moms email list)
Ryan Evan Ockey
Mexico City West Mission
7/06-7/08

COMcewens said...

WAY FUNNY!!!! I love your humor! You posted your link a while ago on the MM list. Loved it so much I book marked LONG ago!!!

Good luck with the book!
Pam