A Treasure in Time

A Treasure in Time

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

A Treasure in Time

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.

William Penn

Interstate 40 stretched endlessly before me. I was coming home from the first family reunion without Bob, held in June of 1995. Memories of our short nine years of marriage flooded through me.

We both worked for the Social Security Administration and three years previously accepted positions in a field office in Oklahoma City, a transfer we needed for any future advancements. In February 1995, a 10-week training session for a promotion sent me to Dallas, Texas; a session cut short by the news of a bomb ripping through the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

My Bob was in that building.

When Bob and I first met, he was putting together a tape of love songs titled “20 Years of Loving You,” gleaned from albums and 45s borrowed from friends, some of whom were unattached women with their own agenda. I offered him the use of my record collection and asked him to use my favorite, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

By the time Bob finished the tape, we had been dating for several weeks. One Saturday, he called and said he had a surprise for me. As I got in the car and we headed for the highway, he took out a cassette and slid his finished tape into the tape deck. My own voice, taken from a message I once left on his answering machine, came out of the speaker: “I just called.. .” The tape then faded into the music of Stevie Wonder. “This one is especially for you,” he said.

The memory brought tears to my eyes. Now, close to the Oklahoma state line, I happened to see the sign “Oklahoma Trading Post—50 Miles Ahead—Exit 287.” It occurred to me that Bob and I always meant to stop on our return trips from his family reunions in Florida, but we never did. We had already gassed up an exit or two before, we were tired, we just wanted to get home. “This time,” I decided, “I’m going to stop.”

As I drove, my mind wandered; how could I ever make it without Bob—my big, strong husband whose comforting arms held me when I cried, whose sense of humor melted my anger, and whose sense of adventure enriched both our lives. Tears stained my cheeks, but I kept driving. Suddenly, there was exit 287. Damn! I had passed the Trading Post. Well, maybe next time.

Just as suddenly as I made the decision to drive on, I decided I would go back! I swerved the car at the last instant and drove up the ramp. Reaching the main road, I realized I was on the Turner Turnpike—no exits for who knew how many miles. I looked for a flat place in the median and drove across, mindless of whether a state trooper might be watching, and headed back toward the Trading Post.

As expected, the Trading Post was like many Bob and I stopped at on our travels: a mixture of Southwestern goods and souvenirs. As I wandered through the store, I came upon a wrought-iron and wooden bed setup showcasing Indian blankets, prickly cactus plants and strings of red and green peppers.

Beside the bed was a small table holding Aztec vases, delicate desert flowers and a howling coyote with a bright scarf around its neck. Unobtrusively nestled among them sat a small, old-timey wooden telephone with a carved mouthpiece and rotary dial, its receiver resting on the black prong and connected with a thin black cord. My first thought was, “How unusual. Everything else is so Southwestern, the telephone looks out of place.” Picking it up, I lifted the receiver.

A musical tinkling began from the base of the phone. Tears filled my eyes and coursed down my cheeks. A wave of warmth swept over me as I stood sobbing, clutching the phone, oblivious of other customers walking warily around me. The tune I heard was “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

Making my way toward the front to pay for my newfound treasure, there was no doubt now that I could make it. I was not alone; my Bob had just called to say he loved me.

Judy Walker

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