“Sorry, you have the wrong number.”
Again and again and again. The constancy of the wrong numbers astounds me.
I have had this phone number for six years, ever since I looked around my eighth grade one day and realized I was basically the only one who didn’t own a cell phone.
That started the cycle of wrong numbers that continues to this day. At first it was random.
“Hi. Is Chuck there?”
Then came the messages. I’d check my machine and hear “Yeah, uh, Chuck? Where do you want the crew of guys today?”
I figured Chuck was a contractor.
The calls continued. Six years later, and I’m still getting calls. I don’t understand why they don’t have his new number.
I guess it wouldn’t be such a big deal if my dad’s name weren’t Chuck. Well, Charles D. Kraven to be exact, but he always went by Chuck. I can still picture him holding out his hand to shake when he met someone new: “Chuck Kraven, glad to know you.”
He’s been gone almost fourteen years, and it’s the little things I remember and miss the most. Believe me, I just had a run-in with his favorite chocolate coconut bars in the bakery the other day. Sometimes time does NOT heal all wounds.
Lately, the calls are coming more frequently, and during times of turmoil. I was crying in my reading chair the other day, when the phone rang.
“Hi. Is Chuck there?”
And then last week at school I was waiting for an important call during my planning period.
“Hi is Chuck there?” I answered, and before the guy hung up, I finally decided to ask him who Chuck was.
“Is he some kind of a contractor?
“No, he works at the steel mill.”
Insert chills and spooky music. My dad spent the better part of my childhood working swing shifts at U.S. Steel.
And there are other Chuck messages. Last summer I was on vacation at the pool with my kids, having a really bad time of things. I was in a lousy mood with some difficult circumstances and generally feeling bereft. I spied a guy with several tattoos, and Phillipians 4:13 stood out. After a quick Google, I had it: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I approached the man to thank him for the message and tell him the verse helped one weary traveler.
“I did it for my son Chuck. He died of cystic fibrosis at age 19.” The tears rolled from my eyes. And his. We hugged, and cried some more. His name was Chuck too, of course. I promised to pray for his teenage daughter who was still battling the disease.
I don’t know that I ever understood what it would be like to live without my dad on this earth. I mean, how could I? I didn’t know that I would still be able to get wiffs of his cologne or hear his voice in my head. I didn’t realize that the lessons he taught would grow louder and clearer with time.
And I certainly don’t know why my phone keeps ringing for Chuck, or what kind of message he is trying to send me. But I know for sure that love lives on.
Sometimes I wonder if I make too much of things, or if I find connections that are just coincidence. I feel my dad in moments big and small, but is he really here? I almost wish I was kidding in sharing that as I was writing this today, I missed a phone call. No message was left, but curious, I hit redial to hear these words: “Thank you for calling United States Steel. “ More chills. More love. Okay dad, I get it.