It’s 4am. I am sitting in THE most comfortable chair in the world outside my father’s bedroom and I hear the bell ring. I snap to attention to get him what he needs. I am so grateful for that bell and so happy he is still here for me to help. I place my hand on his back. I focus prayerful energy to his patchwork heart, my hand heats up and I simply know he will be OK today.
It wasn’t always that way with the bell. I really used to hate the sound of it. My first encounter with the call bell was because my brother had asthma. We shared a bedroom and a bell was given to me to wake the house at the first sign of wheezing. Oh I tried ringing it once or twice, but it seemed they took too long to get there, the bell was in my way. It was just much faster to drag him by his blue footie pj’s down the hall to the bathroom, fill it with steam, and climb on the counter to reach his inhaler out of the medicine cabinet all while yelling Mooooooommmm! at the top of my lungs. Still didn’t hate it yet, just didn’t have the time in my tiny impatient mind to use it.
It was actually my grandmother who I associate with my disdain for the bell.
The bell pictured above hung at the end of my grandparent’s sidewalk. For some reason my Grandmother would find the need to scold us whenever we were near that bell, even though we weren’t touching it! She would sternly lecture us that it was only for emergencies to call the workers. We felt angry and guilty (like when a patrol car pulls behind my car and I panic for no reason). She scolded that if we rang it we would be like The Boy Who Cried Wolf which is ironic when I tell you the rest of the story. Toward the end of her life she moved in with my parents. As older people sometimes do she became childlike and bratty. She couldn’t be left alone so there were times I had to grandma-sit. I was in college so I believed it would be a quiet time for me to study.
The grandma sitting started off by checking her water glass (Ice all the way to the top),finding the remote in her blankets so she could turn her TV up to ear piercing levels and making sure the blinds were the way she wanted. “I will be right outside the door.” I would shout while handing her the bell. As soon as I plopped down, opened a book and started to concentrate; ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling and I rushed in. “I need more ice” She would say. “YOU don’t put enough in!”
“Grandma, the ice cubes are full even poking out of the top, I can’t fit anymore in.” She wasn’t having it so I took the glass out to the hall, then brought it back. “That’s better.” She says while giving me a stern nod. She rarely drank the water. Sometimes the call of the bell was to open the blinds, minutes later to close them. Often times to find the remote. Once and a while she really did need something. I thought maybe she was lonely but she didn’t want me to stay in the room and she wouldn’t come out to the rest of the house. This scene repeated itself every 10 minutes or so throughout the day. Each time my butt hit the chair; ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling!! The bell. That damn bell.
Fast forward to today, and just like Quasimoto I have learned to love the bell. The frustrated young woman I was is replaced with the reality that the bell has always been a lifeline. As long as my dad can ring it, I know he is still here. I wait impatiently for the brassy sound or actually ANY sound. When I don’t hear it I check on him way too often. I know there will be a time when the bell is silent, when no one needs me to rush in and administer medication, fluff a pillow,comfort a child, or open blinds. I know someday I will need to summon a person to get ME ice (haha..my poor daughter). Until then I will rush in at the call of the little brass bell.