There are folks in this world who adamantly refuse to relinquish their hold on anything, be it newspapers . . . plastic bags . . . the clothes they had in high school that they’ll never be able to button again . . . for a variety of reasons, these items must remain with them forever. Technically, ‘til death do them part. I’m not quite that bad (at this point my family should just be quiet), but there are two things that I do refuse to eliminate—voicemails and text messages. If you have ever left or sent me either—and my phone didn’t arbitrarily decide to delete them as it once did with voicemails that were over 30 days old—then I still have it. Even the one I received on November 2, 2017 at 3:41 PM from Michael Anderson in Kingston, Surrey County, Jamaica. He was calling to inform me that I’d won $2.9 million dollars in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. I didn’t return his call. Worst. Mistake. Ever.
My main reason for keeping both is business related. This policy has served me well in the past, like when the sprinkler system at our Collinwood facility flooded the building for the second time after we had reported numerous problems, and then the company tried to blame us for the issues. The fact that I could quote date, time, and actual message for each notification served us well, resulting in them taking full responsibility and making all repairs to the system and the building at their expense. Fortunately, we don’t have many building floods that require such detailed reporting . . . but if we ever do again, I’m ready.
You know how it is. A text will come in and you can clearly see what it says without actually opening it. So you don’t. And the little counter next to the icon on your home screen bumps up by one. Or a voicemail will hit your phone but you’ve already spoken with that person because you called back while they were leaving it, so you don’t listen. And the little counter next to the icon on your home screen bumps up by one.
Well, my little icons had bumped up considerably. I had 82 voicemails and even more text messages that I’d never opened. And last week I decided I would just clean all that up so I didn’t have giant numbers screaming at me every time I pulled out my phone.
Some of those text messages would qualify as vintage, but I went through and marked them all as “read”, then tackled the voicemails. I flew down to the bottom of the screen (date: February 17, 2012) and started working my way up, thinking I had to swipe every one of them . . . meaning I heard snippets of each message as I was removing their blue dot. I was a few years into the process when I came across a message from Sharon Rachels. I had assisted Sharon when her husband died in April of last year; I tapped the little “play” triangle and she opened with her traditional, “Lisa, this is Sharon again. I’m sick of this stuff . . .” and then she trailed off, laughing and apologizing. It was an insurance related rant, based on one company’s response to her husband’s death and the claim paperwork that had been filed. Sharon died July 24th of this year, and hearing her voice again, so full of life and ready to take care of business, generated an avalanche of memories.
Moving on up the list, I found another one that made me pause and listen to the entire message instead of just enough to make my phone think it had done its job. It was from Charlie Baker, dated November 7, 2018 at 8:42 AM. He had been to the chiropractor and the doctor had told him to be off work until the coming Saturday. He would have his wife bring his work excuse by shortly.
I hadn’t heard Charlie’s voice since December of last year. Thursday, December 6th, to be exact. That was the last day he worked. That was the day he died.
It didn’t matter what Charlie had to say . . . or Sharon. What mattered was that they said it. I could hear their voices again. And in hearing their voices I could recall their faces and our conversations and so many moments that might otherwise never come to mind.
And that’s the second reason I keep such trivial little things. A snippet that lasts less than a minute . . . maybe two or three. Something that reminds me of them. Something that all too often can fade from my memory—the sound of their voice—is memorialized in a simple message about ordinary, everyday things. It brings them to life again, if even just for a moment, reminding me of who they were and how they were. And when I close my eyes, I can see them again as they speak to me once more. So I keep their messages . . . and so many others . . . because I know someday it will be all I have.