Hanging up the phone
By Jennifer M. Latzke
I’ve said it at least 10,000 times over the years.
“Love you. Bye.”
It’s how we end every phone conversation in our family. It’s as natural as breathing. As ingrained as saying, “yes, ma’am,” or “please” and “thank you.”
I don’t know who started it or why. I just know that it’s important in our family to say it each and every time we say our goodbyes.
When I was little and just learning phone etiquette, I remember talking to my grandma or my aunts on the phone and Mom would prompt me to tell them “I love you,” before handing the phone back to her. I thought that was how every phone conversation was supposed to end.
That got me into a little bit of trouble when, later, I was answering the phone and there was a bull buyer on the other end for Dad. “No, sir, Daddy’s not here. Would you like to call back? OK, thanks—love you, bye.”
Fortunately, the bull buyer found it charming and an added customer service, and Dad got a chuckle. However, after that Mom clarified the rule that we only tell family members, “Love you, bye.”
As a teenager, I don’t remember being mortified when I’d have to call my folks in front of my friends and say our customary farewells. In fact, I remember one sleepover after I had called Mom to tell her the pickup time had changed the next morning, I hung up the phone with “love you, Mom.” One of my friends got this funny look on her face and asked, “Why do you do that?” I told her that was just how we do it in our family. To which, she replied, “I can’t remember the last time I told my parents I loved them without wanting something in return, like an extended curfew or new shoes.”
It was the first time I realized that not every family was like ours.
Even at his busiest, most distracted times as a farmer, Dad would still make sure to end the conversation with, “love you, bye.” Didn’t matter if he was calling the house to see when lunch would make it to the field, or if he was calling to ask for someone to run for parts, he still ended the conversation with it.
And as I got older I realized that telling your family your feelings doesn’t take a backseat to the work schedule. It’s not something you pencil in when you can get around to it.
Oh, for sure, the “love you, byes” were sometimes forced over the years. You can’t be in a family and not have tiffs and scuffles and dramas. We don’t always have to agree on everything. We don’t always have to even like each other.
Even at my maddest, even when I disagreed with my siblings or my parents, even if just moments before we’d had an all out shouting match over some slight or another, I still said the words.
Because I truly do. And the last thing I want them to hear and to have in their mind is my voice telling them I love them.
And it means as much today as it did that first phone call so many years ago.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.