Phone-calls with the past

How do I get up and move on from my past when it’s in my heart and on my mind so much?

almost a week ago, I got an email from my ex-mother-in-law.

To see Jon’s Mom’s name in my inbox made my heart ache. The part of me that still listens out for Santa on Christmas Eve hoped it was going to be a nice email.

I’ve missed Joan so much.

It wasn’t nice, though.

But to be honest, it wasn’t horrible, either – it was just…cold.

Joan wants me to ship my boxes from the container at Church – NOW. She reminded me of my promise to do it 4 years ago which I’m mortified at being so crap at keeping. I’m so thankful they kept my things for me instead of just throwing them out.

So I’ve been researching shipping companies and international freight companies. I got a fairly good quote from a great company over in the UK who will collect my boxes from Prescot, ship them to me and deliver them to my front door here in Australia. Pretty good, eh?

The thing is, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast last Friday – let alone remember the size, weight and number of boxes I packed almost 5 years ago to this date.

So I need Joan’s reluctant help on this. I need to know the address of the Church container, how many boxes, what size and weight they are and who I can list as a ‘contact’ for the Courier when he arrives.

Joan hasn’t emailed back.

I know it’s only been 4 days, but she said “move them. NOW” so I’m doing my best. I’ve sent across my deposit to the freight company and I’m ready to move the boxes…but until hear back, I cant do anything.

My neurosis had me worrying about this and the sticky idea of “move your boxes before they get thrown away” went around and around in my mind. So funny that boxes I’ve completely forgotten about and obviously dont really need have suddenly become all I can think about it. Suddenly, I have to have them.

I dont even know what’s in them, anymore…but I have to get them. I’m suddenly so afraid I’ll lose what I havent even thought about in 4-5 years.

Photo by Markus Spiske

I brought up Jon’s contact details on my phone. Was this still his number? Who knows after all these years.

I typed out the text “Hey Jon – do you have a quick minute to chat? Can I call you?” and sent it.

Quickly, I followed that text with “This is Janet by the way :)”

Instantly my phone beeped and Jon’s familiar name lit up my screen with the words “I’m free for a call, sure”

So I hit the phone icon by Jon’s name.

Within 2 rings, Jon’s voice wearily said “Hey”

It’s been so long since I heard it that I felt like the earth stopped spinning.

I heard crackling on the line and the sound of papers being shuffled on Jon’s end of the line.

“Hello?” he asked again.

My mouth wouldn’t work.

Dammit Janet – say something. Please.

“Uh…Hi” I finally managed.

This was more awkward and difficult than I could have ever expected or imagined.

“So…” Jon invited. I could almost hear the smile in his voice.

Without knowing why, I pressed the phone against my ear as hard as I could. I guess I wanted to hear every word, every nuance, every sigh, every breath.

My mind was frantically trying to work out what I was feeling. I still don’t know even now as I tell you about it. Heartache that his voice still made me feel like I’d arrived home after a long journey. Worry that he sounded so old. Did Jonathan always sound so old? Worry about the weariness in his voice – had he been sleeping enough? Stop it, Janet – that’s not your business anymore.

“How can I help you, little Miss?” Jon prompted again. Had it been a really long time since I’d spoken? Or just a few milliseconds?

“Uh” I cleared my throat which had closed up. Tears had sprung to my eyes and my chest felt really tight. “I was just…I wanted to – Um…your Mom emailed me about the boxes”

What was wrong with me? honestly?

“Oh right. Yeah” Jon’s nod was heard “I guessed you might need some help with that – we’ve got two big boxes of yours in the building and a few scattered about somewhere else but yeah, most of them in the Church container outside in the car park”

“I’ve contacted a few companies and gotten a good quote off one so I’ll make a move on this asap…I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long, Jonathan”

“Hey” Jon’s voice calmed me instantly. Weird. “It’s really okay…are you ok?”

“No” I answered honestly “its so weird to hear your voice after such a long time”

Jon chuckled gently “Yeah it’s been a while. How’s things over there?”

“You first” I couldn’t help but smile

“Ah you know – busy Preaching at different Churches so I’m writing a few sermons. I’m re-opening the youth club here and also opening 4 new branches in the Ukraine – it’s all go. I’m writing my sermon for tonight right now, funnily enough. How about you? What have you been up to?”

“Everything and nothing” I admitted, shrugging as I did “You know me, Jonathan – doing a million things at once – all badly…instead of doing just one thing really well”

“If you could do just one thing really well, then – what would it be?”

I’d forgotten Jon’s ability to ask the most profound questions and his way of listening and reallyhearing what people want to say.

“Uh…probably lose weight. I figure if I get my health sorted – everything else I’m trying to do will be a lot easier”

Huh. I hadn’t even realised that myself until I admitted it to Jon.

“Weird. I would have thought you would have said study. Studying’s always been important to you and you’ve come further on this current Uni course than you ever have in the past”

You noticed, Jon?


“Yeah – it’s a mental one, but I’m really proud of how far I’ve come”

“What exactly are you studying now – it’s not teaching, is it? You’ve moved away from that on this latest course – why is that?” Jon inquired

“I dont know. I honestly couldnt tell you. It’s such a strange move and I’m on such a broad course”

“Is it still a Bachelor of Education?”

“No, Bachelor of Arts – I’m studying Community Development. I’m learning about buildings and sustainability, ecology and sociology – I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I finally took some units in Youthwork which is why I signed up for this degree and failed them”

“Oh” Jon’s surprise touched my heart “That’s not like you”

“It really isnt, I-“

“Woah, one sec, okay?” I could hear Jon talking with someone about setting up equipment. He laughed gently at something they said then thanked them.

“Sorry – just signing forms and organising things”

“That’s okay…I was just waffling anyway”

“So how can I help with the boxes, then?” Jon brought the conversation back to it’s purpose. As he always has.

“I know it’s a lot for you and your Mom to do but I cant do it from way over here…can you please put the boxes together and let me know how many and about what size they are? I emailed your Mom over a chart of different packing boxes to try to make it easier…is that okay?”


“And are they being collected from the Church? Are you still at the same address?”

Jon patiently gave me the full address and UK postcode as I hastily wrote it down – in the corner of a Uni textbook that was in my lap at the time. God alone knows how I’ll find that again.

“So you’re okay, then – Jonathan? Really?” I asked. I don’t really know why I asked. I guess I genuinely wanted to know how he was.

“Yeah I’m fine” Jon chuckled again “Busy, but that’s my life now. So…is that all I can help with? I’m here for you if you need to talk – but right now, I have so much to get on with”

I get it, Jonathan *wry smile* You’re busy and I’m interrupting you. I’m taking up your time. I’m not your priority anymore. I remember.

“No no – that’s all” I thanked Jon for his time and we both said goodbye. Jon hung up first.

I stared at the phone in my hand for what seemed like ages.

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