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The Caller

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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He leaves garbled, incoherent messages punctuated by long pauses and throat-clearing on the answering machine. It’s an elderly man with the wrong number. I stand next to the telephone, but I don’t pick up.

“He sure is persistent,” I joke to my husband, Brad, the third time the phone rings. The caller ID displays the name: Leo Something-or-Other. I don’t know a Leo.

On the third try, though, Leo’s halting message booms clear across the kitchen. I hear it from my seat on the bar stool:

“Well, the phone book here says this is the number for a Michelle DeRusha.” Leo pauses, breathing heavily. “But I guess it’s not…okay then…” He hangs up, clattering loudly over the answering machine.

“Oh, no!” I yelp to Brad. “He’s trying to reach me! Why is a man named Leo trying to reach me?”

I dash for the phone and hold the receiver in my hand. “Do you think I should call him back?”

Before Brad can answer I’ve already punched in Leo’s number, and when I hear his grumbly greeting I ramble apologies, sheepishly admitting that I hadn’t answered because I’d assumed he’d had the wrong number.

Turns out, Leo has tracked me down for an important reason: he wants to tell me where I can purchase the very best seeds.

Leo read my column that morning in the Journal Star – the one about faith and gardening in which I described my first abysmal attempt at planting pumpkins – and he has called with some advice for me. He knows all about gardening – he tilled four acres year after year out at his place in Seward – and he knows exactly where to get the best seeds. And the key, Leo assures me, is the seeds.

Twilley Company, out in South Carolina. It’s the only place to get them,” he instructs. He spells the name of the company slowly for me, waits while I jot down the full address.

“I planted watermelon before I went up to Minnesota for my triple bypass. By the time I got back, those melons were bigger than my head,” says Leo. “I guarantee you will not be disappointed with Twilley seeds.”

Leo and I chat a bit more about gardening, but we don’t stay on the line long. Leo had a mission and now that he’s accomplished it, he’s ready to move on. “Good luck with that garden then,” says Leo before we hang up.

Later that afternoon I tell my neighbor, Karna, about the phone call. “Wasn’t that just the sweetest?” I gush, as we stand in her driveway. “That he went so out of his way to call me? That he looked me up in the phone book, the phone book! That he tried me three times? Isn’t that so sweet?”

“That’s what it’s all about,” says Karna. She circles her arms around and around, gesturing to the neighborhood…the town…the world. “That’s exactly what it’s all about.”

Image by Seon Hong, Lee. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Michelle Derusha.

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