I was in mid-sentence with Dr. Stroman when your call beeped in. I glanced at the time and said, “It’s my dad. I gotta go.” She responded, “Oh it is Wednesday. Tell Willie I said hi.” Then she hung up. As quickly as I said, “Hey Dad,” I forgot about the mid-sentence interruption. I had forgotten what I needed to tell Dr. Stroman. I’d remember later. You see, Dr. Stroman knew what anyone that really knows me knew. It was Wednesday night. It was 10:00 pm. It was time to talk to my Daddy. We chatted about my day, your day, the next day. You told me that consecration started at church and you were concerned you might have been a few minutes late with calling me tonight. You were hungry but fasting. You said you’d eat a piece of bread and get some rest. I told you about my second day of class for the semester. I’m teaching a new class. The prep sucked up a lot of my time but I was pleased with how my students received the day’s lesson. They seemed to understand. We both sound tired. The call was short — about 15 minutes.
Many years ago, a friend asked how the weekly conversations began between you and me. What led us to press pause on everything else in the world and for a few minutes (sometimes a few hours) on Wednesday nights create a safe space that is only shared between us? I told her I couldn’t remember the conversation that prompted our permanent meeting, but I do know that I’d recently moved to Washington D.C. to earn my doctoral degree from Howard University. We were playing a lot of phone tag. You said, “We need to pick a day and time to talk every week.” We went through our schedules and landed on Wednesday evenings at 10. My classes ended at 9:45pm and your Bible study ended around 9:30pm. When our standing conversations began, neither of us knew that more than a decade later we would still talk every Wednesday night at 10.
From my long lanky frame to the way my upper body out-paces my lower body when I walk – I am my father’s child. The similarity between our idiosyncrasies, our values, our habits are uncanny. Mommy tells a story about a time when my strong willed personality got the better of you prompting you to ask “where does she get that from?” She picked up a mirror and held it up to your face.
Every Wednesday night no matter what the circumstance — you call. In the beginning our conversations were so easy. Wednesday nights were the perfect way to decompress from the busyness of city life and the rigor of a doctoral program. Most days your call came right as I walked in the door from class, I’d say “hello” as I plopped down on my futon. We’d talk about everything under the sun and hang up only when we ran out of things to say. It didn’t matter what I was doing or who I was with; there were no competing priorities. You had my undivided attention.
I graduated from Howard, moved to a new city, purchased a house and started my new faculty position. While everything rapidly changed around me Wednesday’s night at 10 remained the same. By this time, most of our calls took place during my 40-minute drive along the beautiful Philadelphia Main Line. We’d laughed about me leaving work and getting tangled up in an affluent community. The residents were pleasant but quickly guided me and my vintage Toyota Corolla out of their cul-de-sac.
Although the carefree days of our uninterrupted conversations are now filled with life — an infant that needs to be fed, a toddler awakened by a nightmare, a husband in search of his work materials — more than a decade later Wednesday night at 10 is still (mostly) reserved for you. And, while I’ve spent the bulk of my life in the classroom nothing come close to what I’ve learned about life through my Wednesday’s With Willie.