Posted in Boo, Family, Relationships

Boo’s 20/20

Boo’s 20/20 by: Nancy Malcolm

“Your driving scares me!”  I said.  “Did you see that car?”  And I threw my arm across his chest in a move I used when the kids were little.

“My eyes are perfect,”  Boo declared.  “It’s you I worry about.”

“Maybe you need your eyes checked.  When was the last time you had an eye exam?”

“5th grade, by the school nurse.  I aced it!”  Holding one hand over his left eye. 

“I’m sure your school nurse was a lovely person and took her job seriously, but you have not had your eyes checked since elementary school?”

“I don’t need to.  I can see perfectly.”

Needless to say, I did not trust Boo’s last eye ‘exam’ as the current state of his eyesight.  As with most of Boo’s health care, I felt the need to lecture (that’s a harsh word) on the value of healthy eyes as we age.  You know, cataracts, glaucoma, and basic vision.  An eye exam can also warn of diabetes, high cholesterol, or other problems.

“Don’t worry about me, my eyes are x-ray vision!” he said. “Like Superman.”

“Well, if you don’t believe me, ask your doctor at next week’s annual exam.  See what he says.”  I was feeling smug that his doctor would agree with me and send him right away for an eye exam but sometimes I don’t trust Boo to ask his doctor the right questions.

When it came time for Boo to go, I handed him a slip of paper with three concerns to ask his doctor, just to ease my mind.

Do I need a flu shot and a pneumonia shot?

Check the mole behind ear that looks funny

Eye exam

According to Boo, his doctor, too, was a little surprised he had never had a real eye exam.

“So what did the doctor say?”  I asked.

“He asked me if I was having any problems.” 

 “What did you say?” I prodded.

“I said no. Then he asked me if  anything was blurry far away or close up?”

“And?”

“I said no.  Then he asked me why I wanted my eyes checked, and I said my wife thinks I need to.

“What did he say then?”  I asked.

“Oh.  Ok.”

The next week, Boo got his eyes examined, dilated and checked by a trained ophthalmologist, not a school nurse, and he came out with flying colors.

“You seem disappointed that I am truly perfect in every way.”

Maybe I was, just a little.  With Boo, I do worry about his health.  I’m glad to know he is now up to date on his flu shot, eye exam, colonoscopy and dental cleanings.  I’m still working on his nutrition, though.  His stash of candy and treats rival the grocery store check-out line, and his addiction to licorice is worthy of a 12-step program.

But, one thing at a time.  I’m proud of him for all he’s done and for now I will stay quiet and stop being Nurse Nancy.  

First the eyes….next the Twizzlers.

Posted in Nature, Relationships

COVID Connections

COVID Connections by Ginger Keller Gannaway

In March I started 7:20 a.m. walks through my eclectic neighborhood. 

Early mornings I pass subsidized apartments, an elderly elementary school, a head shop, a short strip mall that includes a convenience store with an impressive mural of Ice Cube on its side wall, a local take-out pizza joint, a Mexican restaurant, and a hair salon. A mental health hospital is a few blocks away, and a very unpopular Sonic is across the street from us.

I begin my walks down a sidewalk-less street with mostly trailer homes. I turn onto a shady street of duplexes and small houses. Later I follow a busy street towards a tiny park with lots of trees and a few backless stone benches. I pass a Korean Catholic Church before I head back home down a wide street with bike lanes on both sides. After I pass the elementary school, I turn onto my own street of apartments where people work on their cars and hang out after work. I hear music and conversations more often in Spanish than English. 

A Lounge of Cats

Lots of cats roam my street, and one cat gives me the willies; I call it the opossum cat because of its weird white face and its pointed nose and menacing stare. A black dog with huge balls and stubby legs appears some times. He wears a frayed grey collar without tags that was once blue. He’s a curious guy without menace. His walk is brisk and reminds me of Tramp from the early Disney movie; he’s resourceful and scrappy and free.

After I’d been walking for several weeks at the same time each morning, I began connecting with some people. Brisk Walking Woman was my first connection. She lives close by, makes fast laps around the streets, and wears a wide-brimmed orange floppy hat. 

Near the park I pass Scraggly-bearded Man in a motorized wheelchair with a small white dog on a leash. He is often barefoot, and I once helped him untangle the dog leash from his wheels while the dog sat in his lap and barked at me. The man and I both wore face masks; I was equally fearful of his dog biting me as I was of catching the virus. 

In July after I’d said hello to Young Gardener tending her raised bed of flowers and vegetables, she offered me fresh tomatoes! Score!! I later gave her blueberry muffins, and after swapping names, we now swap fresh produce and baked goods. 

There’s also Wonderful Woman who carries a cane for protection and has a sunny smile to match her bright disposition and bold colored wardrobe. 

I also wave to Tie-dyed Lady who wears her dog leash around her waist and Tall & Handsome Guy who walks a hyper black and white puppy that gives my hand puppy-nips when I pet him.  

Recently I encountered Tiny Woman who has grey and black curls and walks her dachshund near the elementary school and waves at me across the street.

Waving to my walking friends reminds me of a Dan Hertzfeldt’s cartoon: “Billy’s Balloon.” In the cartoon, a stick figure kid gets lifted into the sky by his red balloon, and while he’s floating into the clouds, he sees another kid being carried upward by a yellow balloon. They wave at each other from across the distance. They smile. Then an airplane ploughs right through the kid with the yellow balloon.

My walks connect me to others, and when we wave hello and make mundane comments about the high humidity or the welcome breeze, life seems almost normal. Yet underneath the brief bits of friendliness lie the uncertainty and fear that never fully go away. 

My face mask hangs from my left ear when my sidewalk is empty for blocks ahead. About fifty percent of early walkers I see have masks.

Last week Wonderful Woman was on my side of  the street, and after I said, “Feels like fall,” when I passed her, she pulled down her mask and said, “ What? I can’t understand you.” 

So standing a few feet from her, I pulled down my own mask and we had a one minute conversation as I shoved worry and fear into a back room of my mind next to paranoia and uncertainty.  I feel the need to connect to others as much as I feel the desire to stay safe. May we handle our connections with equal amounts of compassion and safety.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Zoom Zoom

Last week Boo had to attend substitute training in preparation for the start of school.  This man worked thirty years in the classroom and as an administrator guiding thousands of high school kids toward graduation.  Now, he substitutes as an elementary P.E. teacher (when he feels like it) doing hula hoop games and Kidz Bop dance-a-thons.

This year, being what it is, his training was on Zoom.  Boo has never been on Zoom and didn’t really know where it was.  This is a true story.  Most of us recognize the little blue square with a camera symbol, but Boo was a novice.

“I need your help,” he said.  “Where do I go for my Zoom meeting?”

“What do you mean?  Like the computer room???”

“I mean, where is it?”

We sat side by side and I showed him the icon, talked about the meeting number and passcode etc.  I agreed to be with him and help him “get on” his meeting.

Their first instructions said to turn off the camera and mic.

“But, I put on a nice shirt and everything,”  he said.  “How will they know I’m here?”

“It might be too distracting to have such a handsome guy on camera.” I smiled.

However, two folks did not follow directions and their faces were beside the presenter.  I became terribly engrossed watching them get up for water and coffee, primp in the camera and one even picked his nose.

Meanwhile, Boo, sitting straight in his chair said, “Can they see me?”

“No, I turned off your camera.”

“But, those guys are on…”

“They shouldn’t be.”

“I wish I was.”

“Maybe another day,”  I said.

The professional development progressed, but Boo was losing attention, staring out the window and checking his fingernails.  

Suddenly, we heard, “Type your response in the chat box, now.”  Wide eyed, he let out a few choice words and said, “Where is this chat room?”

“Ah, it’s a box, and you click on the word chat then type in your response.

By the time he completed his answer, the speaker was on a new topic…”You will be receiving a virtual backpack with information pertinent to your daily check in at school. Download now.”

I leaned over and downloaded the folders.

“What did you just do?”

“I got your backpack.”

His eyebrows shot up.

“It’s a virtual backpack, Boo.  I downloaded the information for you.”

“But, where is it?”

“It’s in our download file.”

“With the backpack?  Remember last year we got a coffee mug and the year before a grocery bag with AISD on it?  I’m excited about a backpack.”

“Honey, you really won’t get an actual backpack.  It’s virtual.”

“Oh.”

One and a half hours later, an accidental disconnect, much cussing and a virtual break-out session, it was over.

“Maybe, I should work at Home Depot,” he said.

“Don’t be discouraged, Boo.  This was just your first Zoom.  It will get better.  I think you did a great job!”

He sighed and with his sad looking baby blues, he looked at me to ask, “I wonder what color backpack I’ll get?”

Oh, Boo.

Posted in Relationships

Daddy Was A Saver

My daddy, J.C.Claughton, passed away eleven years ago today.

My Daddy was a “saver”.  A procurer of particulars…a frugal forager.  It was probably because he was a product of the Depression, but for whatever reason, if you needed ‘it’, he had it, at least one and an alternate.

When Daddy passed away we found boxes full of souvenirs, balls of twine, ink pens, jars of nails and business cards.  We found his report cards, measuring tapes, hundreds of bank statements and thousands of photographs labeled neatly into chronological albums.  There were boxes, bags and myriad other containers full of his mementos.   

My brother and I waded through his things sometimes laughing …sometimes crying.  Towards the end of our sorting, we bantered across to each other, “You take it!”  “No, YOU take it!”  Still, we filled large, black Hefty bags with things to give away or dispose of.  His obsessive ‘saving’ wore us out.  Sometimes, as we discarded, I whispered a prayer, “I’m sorry Daddy, we just have to let this go,” hoping he understood.

Last year I was going through a box of Daddy’s things that I had ‘saved’ from ten years ago.  When I brought it home, I thought I would go through it right away.  But, ten years had passed and I had just found the strength to open the box.

Inside were our report cards, Baptism announcements, college essays, school pictures and more.  I found an old, faded manila envelope, sealed with a piece of tape and enclosed were letters and cards my brother and I had sent Daddy through the years; Father’s Day cards, poems, and notes we had written him.  Behind those cards were letters tied with a string….our letters to Santa Claus.

I unfolded one pristine piece of notebook paper and I was transported, as I read my brother’s childish handwriting. 

Dear Santa,  I hope that I have been good enough to deserve these things I want.  I would like a bulldog tank, an electric football game and a boy scout nap sack.  My sister would like a jewelry box, a ballarena doll, a girl cowboy suit and play doe, please.   From:  Jimmy and Nancy.  December 16, 1958

This letter was written one month before our mother passed away. Not all of our letters to Santa were saved, just this one and the ones the year after she died. My Dad wasn’t always good at professing his love.  He wasn’t the sentimental, mushy type.  But, after he was gone, I saw his tender side amongst the 14 retractable measuring tapes and boxes of Navy war memorabilia.  The cards and notes his children had sent and letters to Santa obviously touched his heart, although we never knew it.  His heart was inside this box that took me ten years to open. And, suddenly, all of this stuff he had ‘saved’, became a piece of him…a bridge to the other side, where he was standing, arms open wide, saying, “See?  I have always loved you.”  And finally my heart whispered back, “I know, Daddy.  I love you, too.”

Posted in Friendship, Relationships

Skinny Jeans

 

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Boo had skated around the fact that he was eating exactly what he wanted in spite of the doctor’s warning.  “Your blood sugar is getting higher.  You need to change your eating habits and get more exercise, and it would help if you lost a few pounds.”  Still, he had his stash of candy and cookies semi-hidden on the third shelf of the pantry behind the flour, brown sugar, and the grandkids’ Capri Sun.  I use the term ‘hidden’ loosely.

It took one more threat from the doctor for the message to click.  “If you don’t change your ways, I’ll be putting you on insulin shots.  Here’s the name of a dietitian to help get you started.”  I heard all of this second hand, mind you, and it took him a few hours to disclose what was actually said because he had stopped off at Starbucks for a Caramel Macchiato and pound cake, just a little reward for after the doctor.

Boo reluctantly relayed the information, grudgingly called the dietitian, and went about his way saying, “I’m going to eat whatever I want until I see this nutrition person.”

“I’m going with you to the dietitian,” I said.

“You just want to make sure I tell the truth,” he countered.

“That’s right, “ I said.  “I don’t trust you.”

boo

One week later, we saw the dietitian who was a beautiful, thirty-something, tall, slender nurse.  She was sweet on the outside, but it didn’t take her long to see through his antics.  Yes, I helped him answer her questions honestly.  Yes, I ratted him out on a few things, but I saw him really listening as she explained carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins.  Almost overnight Boo began watching his carbs, forgoing desserts, using sugar-free creamer, and walking 10,000 steps.  It was a miracle.  As the pounds dropped off, he started to envision himself quite the stud.  “I think I’m almost ready for skinny jeans, what do you think?” 

 “Maybe just five more pounds?” I offered.

We went from grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with a generous handful of chips at lunch, to baked fish and Charro beans.  We had berries for dessert instead of double stuffed oreo cookies and ice cream.  We even bought Fitbits.  In fact, Boo became a zealot, watching every bite he put in his mouth.

 When we walked together, I would come home angry.  I envisioned us walking hand in hand down the road of love and health; sharing goals and encouraging each other on our fitness journey.  His focus was to walk briskly and clock his miles, no time for idle chit chat, let alone hand-holding.  So, we opted to walk separately, allowing him to go faster and me to stay sweeter. 

 Six months later he was down thirty pounds and looking svelte.  I, on the other hand, was down three pounds and sneaking potato chips.   How is it that men can just put their minds to it and make this losing weight look so easy?  I think women just have slower metabolisms and don’t forget the whole hormone thing, we’re challenged at every turn.

This year at Christmas, Boo finally got his wish of skinny jeans!  As he pulled the jeans gleefully from the wrapping paper, he grinned like a little kid and stood up to hold the jeans next to his legs.  Even though he needed a little help to pull them on, once he zipped up they fit like a glove. (literally)  Truthfully, I never thought of Boo as skinny jeans material, but I wanted him to live the dream, and he is.

“Enjoy your new-found hotness!” I teased.

“Oh, I will,”  he smiled, as he turned around and checked out his rear end view.  “GQ has nothing on me!”

Posted in Relationships

See Me

DSC_0063 (1)

 

His eyes locked in on mine and the whole depth of his life was etched on his skin, the skin someone had once loved.  Maybe he was still loved, but I saw the story in his eyes and it stopped me.  It stopped my breath and I looked away.

He didn’t say anything, but he asked with his eyes.  Without thinking, my daughter and I opened the door and hurried in with the other assortment of customers; hurrying into the dollar store for super bargains and cheap deals.

It wasn’t until we were all the way in that I noticed the door was shut and he was still outside, but I kept moving, diverting my eyes. 

My daughter was the first to act, walking purposefully back toward the door.  She didn’t say a word to me, but as she opened the door she said, “Hello friend, may I help you?”

He quickly looked down and then glanced back up as he said, “Yes, thank you.  I need to do some shopping.”

His wheelchair was a later model, worn and frayed at the top of the backrest, and basic black, totally utilitarian.  I could tell he had been a tall man, because his one long leg remained, half filling the space of the chair, while his hands gripped the armrest.  

The chair was his home, with a cushion to sit on, and a cloth pouch tied onto the back of the seat holding a grocery bag, bandana and well used water bottle.  The chair was moved solely by the strength of his arms, which would turn and push the large, dirty, frayed wheels.  But, his face…his face frightened me because it was so rough, yet so incredibly tender and open.

There was a beautiful, kind quality to his face that reached out as if to whisper, 

“I’m still me.  I’m still in here, in this tired, worn shell. Can you see me? The real me?”

Shame crept into my body, as I hurried over to hold the door. My daughter gripped the handles behind the backrest and with a strong push, helped him over the threshold and got the bag from the back of his chair.

“There you go,”  she said.  “Anything else I can do for you?”

“No, thank you.  I didn’t think I would make it in,” he said, looking down.

And he shyly wheeled himself forward, down a crowded aisle with greedy shoppers.

She took no credit for this action, as I told her how proud I was and what a kind thing she did.  It is a part of who she is to help the unfortunate or downtrodden.  It was a quiet lesson to me to keep my eyes open, my heart soft and my hands ready to help.

Shame, whether his or mine, does not teach us anything except to abandon ourselves.  Perhaps he had old shame lurking nearby, I really don’t know.  But, I know my shame at not following a faint nudge to help a fellow human, lingers still.

I learned a lesson that day that came from my daughter who was not afraid to open a door; not afraid to extend her hand.  A lesson I hope I will always remember.

Posted in Death and Dying, Relationships

From Fear to Hope

From Fear to Hope  by Ginger Keller Gannaway

For over two months fear has been part of my daily life. As COVID19 continues to kill about 1,000 people a day in the USA, I’m adapting to living during a pandemic. Then sixteen days ago an eight-minute and 46-second video shocked the world and stirred up other worries. Now protesters march in cities all over the world and demand justice for George Floyd. Everyday holds uncertainty and fear for so many people. Important change is rarely easy or peaceful.Am I next?

I watch and read updates about the unrest and the impassioned calls for justice. Cardboard signs on the fence around an elementary school two blocks from my apartment show support for the ones demanding change.

black lives matter3

black lives matter

The protesters are a mix of people from different age groups, different races and different countries. Most marches are peaceful; some involve violence. But all show bravery and determination. Change has to happen! I love the verbs used by rapper Killer Mike. We must : “Plot. Plan. Strategize. Organize. Mobilize.”

Even as I wear a face mask and practice social distancing when I leave my home (and I know the virus is not going away for a long while), I feel hopeful for our future because people are coming together for change, for justice, and for a better future. A friend in New Orleans sent me a beautiful picture of protesters in Jackson Square. He said he felt a sense of love and energy and hope! Amen to that!

NOLA hope

Sam Cooke sang it so well!

 

Posted in Family, Food, Relationships

It’s Not Like Granny’s

IMG_3146

Granny Malcolm

 

He saw a can of salmon on the kitchen counter.  “Are we having salmon croquettes?” he asked with a huge grin.

“Yep.”

“ I love salmon croquettes!  My granny used to make them.”IMG_3149

In the humble circles of Texas, we eat salmon from a can.  Of course, now that we are more worldly, we enjoy fresh salmon broiled or baked, but salmon croquettes are what we grew up on.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in Amarillo, we only ate canned vegetables, canned tuna, even ham from a can.  It’s hard to imagine now, but that tin smell and taste seemed normal.  Nothing came in an easy-open pouch or fresh frozen.  The croquette recipe I remember is:   canned and drained salmon,  saltine cracker crumbs,  an egg,  and maybe chopped onion if you want to get fancy

 You first had to dig out all of the small bones from the can-shaped salmon.  We were always warned that you could choke and die if you swallowed a bone!  Then, you mix it all together and form patties that you coat on both sides with cornmeal.  Next, you pan fry until golden brown.  Yum!

Boo grew up in a small east Texas town.  To this day, his brother, who still lives there, doesn’t lock his house or car.  It’s just an easy-living atmosphere.  When Boo was in high school and could finally leave campus, he and a friend would walk to his granny’s house for lunch every day.  Sometimes they would eat sandwiches, but mainly Granny made those growing boys a hot meal; meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, and salmon croquettes.  So when Boo saw the can of salmon, he immediately thought of dear Granny, God rest her soul. 61048007487__F2BF2BA6-F46A-4CA1-BA8D-E175087C4A0F

There are many meals I’ve made through the years that did not quite match up to Granny’s.  Usually, the comments from Boo go something like this:

“Where’s the gravy?”

“Granny used to always make mashed potatoes with meatloaf.”

Most of the time I catch myself before snapping, “Well, I’m not Granny.  God rest her soul.”

Granny must have been a saint.  She loved to cook and see her children and grandchildren eat her food.  She equated food with love and Boo has told me several times that my cooking is good, but to make it great I’d have to cook with my heart, not my head.

Even Boo cooks with love.  On nights when we agree to just fend for ourselves, I get cheese and crackers and then I hear Boo rattling pots and pans and I smell bacon.  Granny used bacon with everything.  He will whip up a beautiful omelet, bacon and blueberry pancakes, while I sit down to my hard cheese and a few Ritz.  “I didn’t know you were going to do that!” I whine.  “I cook with this, Boo (making a heart shape with his hands) I cook with this!”IMG_3145

While I admit, love is the furthest from my mind when I’m preparing a meal, I do pride myself on the fact that you will not starve at my house.  My food is nutritious, simple and I have a few never-fail recipes, but my heart is just not in it.  I’m not dear Granny, God rest her soul.

While I was mixing my croquettes, I asked Boo, “How did Granny make the salmon croquettes?”

He looked at my ingredients and said, “Well, for starters Granny chopped up the onion so fine, I couldn’t see it.”  I got out the knife and rechopped onions even smaller, trying not to be resentful.  And, about thirty minutes later, when I saw the contented smile on Boo’s face and heard him say, “This is just like Granny used to make,” I knew I had succeeded.

“Thanks, babe,”  I said and I sent up a special thank you to Granny, God rest her soul, for helping me find the love.  I salute the Granny’s of the world.  All of the beautiful people who live to love and love to cook.  I admire them and respect their spirit, heart, and soul, and I admit I could stand to be a little more like Granny.

 “Granny, if you’re looking down on me, please give me a little nudge now and then, so I can make Boo happy with my culinary efforts.” 

 Grant me the serenity not to snap at his requests for gravy, 

the courage to try new recipes, and the wisdom to know my limitations. 

 Amen.

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Posted in Relationships

We Need To Talk

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written by Nancy Malcolm

 

He was reclining in the usual spot on the couch, CNN news looping the same stories they reported yesterday when I apparently ghosted in and sat down.

“Oh!  You scared me!”  he said.

“We need to talk,”  I said.

“Okaaaaaaaay,” he replied, and his face went ashen.

I’m sure he did a quick inventory to see if he had done anything wrong or blatantly irresponsible.  “I’ll put my lunch dishes in the dishwasher, he said, ” Don’t worry.”

“Would you please at least pause the T.V. so we can talk?”  I asked.

And that’s when it happened.  He rolled his eyes, not at me directly, but because they were facing the T.V., I saw it from the side.  My sixty-two-year-old husband is really a twelve-year-old in disguise.

He paused the T.V. but his body stayed reclined.   Facing forward, he glanced in my direction, hoping that would be enough.

“Could you at least turn this way so we can see each other?”

He shifted my way but I could tell he was not in the mood for a serious discussion.  We’ve known each other long enough for us both to know the signs, and there are always signs.

Oh sure, I knew better than to lead off with “We need to talk.”  I knew other tools to use, ways to incorporate less threatening phrases, but it jumped out of my mouth, flew out into the air and landed in his space.  Ooops there it is.

And this is where my story takes a surprising turn.  I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I heard a clap of thunder, metaphorically speaking.  Suddenly, in a blinding light of clarity, I had an epiphany or as a friend of mine says; a talk with Tiffany

I realized we had been in this exact place many times before.  I say ‘we need to talk.’ He rolls his eyes. I get upset and he gets defensive.  It was about to be a lose-lose situation. What I needed to talk about had been talked about before and so it would probably be filed in his ‘nagging’ folder, never to be seen again.  I knew I had a choice to make: same old-same old or something new,

I had wanted to have Talk #32:  You never say anything sweet to me anymore.  You never compliment me or say words of affirmation.  I would quote from Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages and end with guilt.  “I always try to say sweet things to YOU….” No wonder the man’s eyes glaze over right before he rolls them.  I had too many ‘always’ and ‘nevers,’ and I heard myself plain as day, the voice from Charlie Brown: “WaaaWaaaaaaWaaaa”

As if on cue, I saw his baby blues lock in on me.  I remembered that earlier that day he had watered all the outside plants and vacuumed out my car.  He was home, not out gambling.  And, I had no doubt that he would put his lunch dishes in the dishwasher.

Sometimes God does for you what you cannot seem to do for yourself, and as I looked at my husband my mouth opened and out came, “I just wanted to tell you thank you for vacuuming out my car.  That was so sweet of you.”

I felt my eyes widen and I couldn’t believe my ears, but I tried to act cool and nonchalant. 

For a few seconds, he stared at me, then said, “Is that it?”

“Yes.  Thank you, honey.  It means a lot.”

“Okaaaaaay.  You’re welcome.”

And with that, I patted his leg and said, “Carry-on, Boo.”  I turned to leave the room and I heard Wolf Blitzer’s voice starting up and the recliner go back a little farther.  I know his eyes never left the screen, but as I walked away he called, “Love you” 

“Love you too,” I answered, and I meant it.