“Hello, Mr. Polk?”
“Uh, there’s no one here by that name.”
“Oh, okay, is Mrs. Polk there? May I speak with her?”
“I’m sorry, she’s dead.”
“There is no one here by that name.”
It’s the truth and suggests the caller called the wrong number and hopefully they’ll flag it as a wrong number in their database. Sometimes its enough to say ‘there is no one here by that name,’ but sometimes not, like this morning. Sometimes when asked for ‘Amy Polk’ or ‘Mrs. Polk,’ I give the same answer that 'no one by that name lives here,' but this morning I was not really in the mood for niceties so I gave my ‘she’s dead’ reply with a bit of a subtle, caustic, anger and hung up as I heard the poor sap on the other end try to apologize.
I wonder, sometimes, if a day has gone by when I haven’t thought of Amy. I don’t know the answer to that question but it feels like everyday I have. We have pictures in the house, and stuff just happens with the boys, which makes me think of her. Mostly now, it’s benign and not encumbered with sadness and grief. Sometimes it's a happy memory. But sometimes it is wrapped with sadness and grief, like today, and it catches me by surprise. After I hung up, I went into the bathroom and cried. Not long and not that hard, but tears came. It had been a while too. I can’t really remember the last time a “grief echo” occurred. One month? Three months?
And then comes the minor guilt. It must suck to be a telemarketer. What a job. I’m sure if Jesus walked the earth today he’d show his love for the least of us by not only hanging out with the prostitutes and tax-collectors, but the telemarketers too. Or at least the repentant telemarketers (see Mathew 21, among others).
But still, it’s been over three years since Amy died. Can’t the marketing firms get their goddamned databases updated? They are good enough to know what I am thinking of buying, at least judging by facebook ads, but they don’t know my wife is dead?
And as the day has unfolded I've thought of her. Probably more than usual. Little things. Random things. And fond memories started to push at the anger and grief and sadness. Going for a run helped to. It usually does. And the more I thought about Amy the more I thought of my response to the sorry telemarketer. My response was curt and, admittedly, designed to hurt him a little. Take some of my pain and share it. But what good is that? And as I thought more about it I thought my answer was incomplete and didn't really answer his question: "is Mrs. Polk there?" After all, Amy is here. Truly. Her remains are in a box on a shelf in the living room next to a picture of her in her wedding dress. Yes, some of her remains are in upstate New York and Ann Arbor and at the National Zoo, but she is here, in our home and in our hearts.
So while it was true what I said to the telemarketer this morning, I didn’t really answer his question, not precisely:
“Is Mrs. Polk there – may I speak with her?”
“Well, yes, she is here. Sort of. But she can’t come to the phone because she exists now in our hearts and memories. Can I take a message?”
I like that response better. And thank you, telemarketer, for the memories.