“Hi there, you’ve reached Andre, and Dee Dee, and Butter Bear. Please leave your name and number at the tone.”
Every time Deidra heard the message she would smile and remember the fun they had recording it. Andre got his part perfect, and she was just as successful but when Mandy used her nickname, the four year old started a contagious laugh that became the best part of the greeting.
“Baby doll are you still there? If you are, pick up.”
How did he know I played hookie? She thought to herself as she reached for the handset. It was almost ten on Tuesday and she would normally be at work but the day was too perfect to spend indoors.
“Hi babe, I’m still here. Is everything ok? Didn’t you have a presentation this morning?”
“I’m fine, the meeting was canceled and I just realized how much I missed you and Mandy, is she there with you?”
“Is that daddy?” Mandy asked, almost on cue, “Can I talk to him?”
“Yes, it’s dad, bear. But he called to talk to mommy.”
“Actually Dee, I would love to talk to you both, can you put me on speaker phone?”
“Are you sure everything is ok?” she whispered, trying to voice her concern while simultaneously hiding it from her little girl.
“Everything is fine, I just was thinking about how I used to call you every morning when we were first married, that is one of my fondest memories.” He said, trying to reassure her, “You are my two best girls and I wanted to spend some time with you this morning, even if it’s only over the phone.”
“As you wish,” Deidra responded, quoting a line from their favorite movie as she pushed the speaker phone button and placed the handset on the table.
“Butter Bear, are you there?”
“Yes, daddy. How is work?”
“Real good, sweetie. I miss you though. Are you being good for mommy?”
“I am!” she answered emphasizing the second word.
“Fantastic, now I have a question for you, do you remember what I say every night before you go to bed?”
“Brush your teeth.”
Yes, there’s that,” Andre said with a chuckle, “But what else?”
“That I’m your favorite little bear?”
“That’s right, you’re my favorite little bear and I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“What for daddy?”
“Remember when we were coming home from church on Sunday and you wanted to sing a song?”
“I remember, you said we would do it next time.”
“I should have said yes, sweetie. Can we sing a song now?”
“Can we, Mom? Will you sing too?”
“Of course I will,” Deidra responded, smiling at the adorable request. “What shall we sing?”
“How about John Smith?”
“Do you mean John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?” Andre asked, feigning seriousness.
“Yes, John Smith!” Mandy responded with a smile, “You start us mommy.”
“John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” The three sang in perfect unison, “His name is my name too. Whenever we go out, the people always shout, there goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Da da da da da da da!”
As was the custom, the family repeated the song four times, each time getting progressively softer while also shouting at the end until they finished in hysterical laughter.
“That was perfect, Butter Bear. I’m so glad we took the time to sing together.”
Just then there was a familiar beep on the phone. “Hey Dre, it’s my mom, can you hold on for one second?”
“She can wait, give her a call when we're done.”
“Are you sure everything's ok?” Deidra asked again, concerned by the unusual request.
“Everything is perfect, in fact it’s better than perfect. I was supposed to be in a boring meeting this morning and instead I get to spend time with my girls.”
“Bear, do me a favor. Go get dressed so I can talk to daddy for a few minutes.”
“Listen to your mom, Butter Bear, I love you bigger than the sky.”
“I love you bigger than everything, daddy.”
“Me too, Butter Bear, me too.” he sighed, “Now go get dressed.”
“Ok daddy,” the little girl responded as she headed upstairs to her bedroom.
“What’s up, Dre?” You’re acting weird.” Deidra questioned as she took the phone off speaker. “Is there a problem at work?”
“Not at all, baby doll, I just miss you like crazy. I’ve had some time to think this morning and I’m realizing that I’ve spent my most precious resource, my time, frivolously. Early mornings and late nights at work. So many Saturdays in front of a computer instead of spending time with you and Mandy. I just want you to know that I know what is important. It’s you, it’s always been you.”
“South and west?” Deidra said, a happy tear in her eye.
“South and west.” Dre repeated, remembering the promise he made when she was in school in Texas and he was finishing his degree at NYU. He had told her everything he did was in an effort to get to her. He was always moving South and west.
“I love you Deidra. I love you with all my heart. I am truly a happy man”
“You sound like Bob Cratchit.”
“Ah, A Christmas Carol, our favorite Christmas Eve movie.”
“I love you more, Dre. Hey, it’s my mom again, can I see what she wants?”
“Dre, are you still there?”
“Dre, if you can hear me hold on.” With a touch of a button a new voice comes on the line.
“Deidra!” her mom practically shouts, “Did Andre go to work today?” She says in a panic. “Was he in the tower?”
“Yes, mom. Why, what’s wrong? He’s on the other line. I’m talking to him now.”
“Oh my God, Deidra, turn on your television, Oh my God!”
In a fog Deidra stumbled into the living room and grabbed the remote control. Seconds later the television sprang to life just in time for her to see the South Tower fall. Instinctively she pushed the button to switch the call back to her husband.
“Andre are you there, please talk to me.” but all she hears is the silence she knows will never end.