When the phone rang, I had no way of knowing it was a call I would treasure forever.
Life is full of surprises, like a storm in the night that leaves you fumbling in the dark for a flashlight, then dazzles you with blazes of lightning. It makes you want to get up each day just to see what will happen, where the lightning will strike, and who might be calling you next.
Before answering, I squinted at the Caller I.D., hoping to avoid a telemarketer or politician or anybody else wanting to sell me something.
Without my glasses -- which, as usual, were someplace other than where I needed them to be -- I could barely read the number. But the area code told me it was probably one of my kids.
"Hey, darlin'!" I said, clueless as to which darlin' it might be.
Then I heard it -- the sweet, small voice of a sweet, small boy -- my first grandchild calling me for the very first time.
Randy is almost 2. As my mother would say, he "talks up a storm," but in a language all his own.
It is a beautiful language -- mystical, magical and seriously comical. He has taught it well to his mom and dad and dogs and cats. They all have no problem understanding him.
He tries teaching it to me, too, whenever I come to visit. But we live 500 miles apart, so I don't get to visit often. It's a lot like a correspondence course, when what I need is total immersion.
To my credit, I have learned a few words ("Mama," "Dada," "dog"). The last time I saw him, a long month ago, he taught me some animal sounds (cow, "moo"; duck, "quack"; kitty, "meow"). I don't pick things up as fast as I once did. By the time I'm fluent, he'll be in college, too busy to talk "baby talk" with his nana.
Mostly, when he talks, I just listen.
Listening to "baby talk" is like listening to music. You don't always need to know the words of a song to understand its meaning, or to feel it swell up your heart near to bursting.
I also nod a lot and say "Absolutely, yes, of course!" if he seems to want my opinion. I'm good at it.
I could listen and nod and agree with him forever.
Meanwhile, I kept waiting for the day when we can have a real conversation, the boy and I.
That day came today. It started, according to his mom, like this: He brought her the phone and asked her to dial it.
"Who do you want to call?" she said, offering a few names, all of which he rejected. Then she said "Nana?" and he nodded. So she dialed my number and handed him the phone.
"Hi, Nana!" he said, in plain English, clear as a bell.
I wish you could've heard him.
Then he switched to his other language, babbling on, speaking his mind, pouring out his heart, preaching to the wind.
"Absolutely," I said, nodding, "yes, of course!"
I pictured this as the first of many phone calls.
He would call me to talk about all his "firsts," preschool through college, his first day of Little League, his first real job, his wedding day, and the birth of his first child.
I was looking forward to it all.
Finally, after he had said all he'd called to say, I kept him on the phone with animal sounds.
"What does the cow say?" I asked, and he mooed.
He giggled and barked.
Exhausting my vast knowledge of the domestic realm, I turned to the wild.
"What does the lion say?"
No reply. I waited, giving him time to think. I like for people to do that for me. But maybe he didn't know what a lion says.
So, to show him just how smart his nana is, I roared into the phone --really loud -- and I heard a clatter on the other end.
His mom came on the line.
"What did you say to him?" she said, laughing. "He threw down the phone and ran!"
He may never call me again.