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A simple phone call

Posted: April 24, 2014 9:26 a.m.
Updated: April 25, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It was a simple phone call, out of the blue, from someone I’d known years before.

Doug and I had never been best buddies -- never visited in each other’s homes, never went on vacation together, never made it a point to stay in close communication. But we were friends.

We worked together in professional organizations, mostly. Like me, he was a newspaperman -- we shared a profession that we loved and sometimes hated at the same time -- and we’d see each other at press association conventions, trade association sessions and the like.

Our duties in the S.C. Press Association drew us together frequently, especially for a couple of years while we were working on similar projects. We’d call each other for input and advice, and always -- always -- there was that deep bass voice on the other end of the line, sounding more like a radio announcer than a newspaperman. And the voice was forever filled with good cheer.

Doug was just one of those optimistic guys whose outlook was contagious; I felt better every time I saw him, just because I could feel his enthusiasm for life. He was a magnet for smiles.

Years passed, and Doug retired. He was older than I, though he had a younger family. To tell you the truth, I never knew how old he was. I knew I had lots of hair on my head and he didn’t, yet he had little children while mine were half grown.

After his retirement, I didn’t see much of him; my life changed, too, and I began spending time in other places and doing other things.

And then the telephone rang one day recently, and that familiar, sounds-like-it’s-time-for-the-radio-news voice was booming over the line from Charleston, a crescendo of good nature that sounded exactly -- I mean exactly -- like it always had before.

In the world of Doug’s voice, time had stood still. I know what you’re thinking: that this was one of those bad-news calls that we all dread. That Doug had a terminal disease, or he had gone through a messy divorce or was suffering from depression.

But it wasn’t.

Thank goodness.

“I was going through some old files,” he said, “and I came across a picture of you, and I wondered, ‘What the heck happened to Glenn Tucker?’ and I decided to pick up the phone and call you to see how you are.” His voice was filled with its usual warmth. Those might not be the exact words he said -- I wasn’t in my reporter’s mode when I took the call, so I’m reciting this from memory -- but the exact words aren’t important.

But the thought is.

We chatted awhile, Doug telling me proudly of his son’s college accomplishments and his and wife Ginger’s upcoming vacation month in the North Carolina mountains, which he dearly loves. We made small talk -- nothing really important -- and then the call was over.

I was left with this glow, this contentment, that has lasted several days. There was nothing earth-shattering about this call, nothing that any historian will ever remember. But the simple act of a guy picking up a phone to renew an old acquaintance, to say “I was thinking of you,” left me, well, satisfied.

Once again, you’ve gotten to the end of my column, and once again, there’s no epiphany. No deep moral platitudes, and certainly nothing you’ll clip out and put in a scrapbook to reread for years to come.

No, this is simple stuff. But I hope for at least a couple of you, there’s a lesson, and a basic one: Life is short. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t seen in years. Just say hello. That’s all you’ll need to do.

(This column first appeared in 2001.)

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