His phone calls broke the calm of our nights.
I first heard of Linda’s (pseudonymous) night calls in 1961, shortly after Bill and I moved into our first home in California.
I was glad the neighbors warned me of the calls.
The phone rang at 2:30 a.m.
Although warned of Linda’s calls, I rushed out of bed before the sound woke the girls.
I was still wondering, “Is this a family emergency? Has anyone died?
Our phone – black with a rotary dial – hung on the wall in our family room. I picked it up quickly.
Sixty years later, I remember Linda’s exact wording.
“How are the four-eyed old woman and her hairy husband?” asked the caller.
Then she hung up.
A shiver ran through me.
“Why would she do that?” “Why would she say that?”
I crawled to the bed and snuggled up against Bill. “You answer the next call,” I whispered as he slept throughout the episode.
My consolation came from knowing that our neighbors were also receiving these calls.
While life in the Bay Area was no Mayberry — nor Loveland — our lives were humming along gently.
My neighbors were at home with young children just like me.
We depended on each other for adult conversations, support, childcare, and baby clothes by hand.
We chatted outside and knew each other’s kitchens as well as we knew ours.
The only one absent from this lifestyle was Linda.
Linda and her husband had six children. Unfortunately, four of them had a genetic condition that made them vulnerable to serious illness.
I rarely saw Linda outside during the three years I lived in the cul-de-sac.
I saw his boys – impeccably groomed – venturing outside only to pick up the newspaper.
From what I could tell, they were well-behaved boys.
My memory is blurring here, but I know I had a nice chat with Linda at one point. I do not know when.
She shared her concerns about her children’s illnesses.
“I don’t know if I should let my eldest son go to the eighth grade prom at school,” she said.
“I fear for his health. Sometimes I can’t sleep, so I get up at night and iron. Sometimes ironing calms me down. Sometimes that’s not the case.
“That’s why Linda is up at 2 a.m. making phone calls,” I thought.
My heart went out to her. Linda carried a heavy weight – emotionally and physically.
I knew I couldn’t carry that weight. Still, I’m ashamed to say that I made no effort to follow up on that phone call to support her.
His nightly phone calls continued to annoy me. I did not know what to do.
I resigned myself to Linda’s behavior, as did my neighbors. We simply accepted the status quo.
Why didn’t we imagine a better life for Linda, her family and our neighborhood?
In June 1964 Bill and I moved to Loveland, and I was relieved that everyone on our little block – right next to Taft and Eisenhower – seemed nice.
In 1965, I learned that Linda had swerved her car several times into traffic.
The judge sentenced her to part-time work – to get her out of the house – to provide a setting where she could get help.
At the Court of Conscience, maybe we neighbors were the culprits.
Why haven’t we made more of an effort to include it in our daily lives?
Of course, she scared us, but we could have walked through the fear.
None of us could have carried Linda’s weight, but why didn’t we walk with her on her journey?
We could have brought her coffee (and cake) – to meet her where she was.