Late on the afternoon of Oct. 21, 1991, the phone on my desk at work rang. I worked as a secretary in a law firm in those days and calls were announced. My desk was, basically, in the hallway; I shared a space with another secretary and we were positioned for rapid response to any demands issuing forth from the lawyers' offices on the other side of that hall. When my phone rang, my boss and I would make eye contact while I announced who was calling—he'd shake his head yes or no to taking the call.
"Your dad is calling," the receptionist said and put the call through; before I could form the thought that this was odd, there he was.
"Hi, Dad." My boss turned back to the work on his desk.
"Just calling to say hello, ask how you're doing."
Even though I knew, we chatted for a while because that's what he wanted. I told him about the hearing we were preparing for, the amount of work required to get the paperwork in order, the endless typing of motions and copying of pages and faxing of documents. "Dad?"
"Are you okay?"
"Well, Button, I don't know if you've heard, but I've got cancer. But I'm fine. I'm okay."
"Yeah, Dad. Listen...."
"Honey, I've got to go now. Just wanted to say hello. You be good. Oh! And, um, thank you for your letter. It means the world."
I told him I was leaving work in an hour and would be at his house as soon as I could be. He told me no. He ordered me not to come. "I love you. Okay?"
"Okay, then. Bye bye, now."
"Bye, Dad. I love you."
My cubicle mate had gotten up when I said hellp, closed the doors of all the lawyers' offices then disappeared down the hall.
After I'd cried and sobbed and cried some more, I stood up and opened my boss's door. But I stayed at work, very late, because I am my father's daughter and work has always been a kind of haven. Then I went home and got in bed and waited for the call that came at 4:30 the next morning.
Today is the 19th anniversary of my father's death.
I miss him, of course; it doesn't take the anniversary for that happen.