It was a Monday evening in January when Mike and I had a phone conversation about urinal etiquette.
I know it was Monday because it was the last time Mike and I spoke. My last conversation with my husband was an argument about bathroom behavior.
Earlier in the day, Ethan’s school called me. There was an incident in the bathroom involving a group of boys who were acting inappropriately. All the parents were asked to have conversations to discuss the appropriate way to act in the bathroom, specifically the urinal area.
This was a little out of my area of experience.
I called Mike on my way home. He answered, sounding tired and pissed off.
“Hey,” I said. “I heard from school. We need to talk to Ethan about how to act in the bathroom. I don’t know any details other than all the parents of the boys are having the talk with their sons tonight. Maybe you can call later and have that conversation with him?”
After months of calling every night at the same time, it had been days since Mike called to talk to the kids.
“That’s not happening,” Mike said.
“What?” I asked. “I just need you to tell Ethan how to behave at the urinals. You know, boy stuff.”
“Why can’t YOU do it?” Mike asked.
“Because I’m not equipped, pun intended, to talk about urinal stuff. All I know is you’re not supposed to look at anyone around you in the bathroom.”
“That’s it, just look straight ahead. No talking. Honestly, I don’t know why you can’t do this,” Mike replied.
“Because it’s your chance to be a dad. To have a man-to-boy talk with Ethan about something important, a life lesson.”
“I don’t feel like it,” Mike said. “You do it.”
“Fine!” I yelled. “I have absolutely no credibility in this area, but I’ll handle it, just like I’ve handled everything else! There’s nothing weird or awkward about a MOM having a talk with her son about urinal etiquette. Thanks for nothing, asshole!”
I hung up the phone, furious that Mike was refusing to man-up and talk to Ethan about “boy stuff.”
That was the last time we talked.
On Tuesday, I had two missed calls and messages from Mike’s cell number. I didn’t want to listen to the messages or return his calls. I was so mad that he wouldn’t talk to Ethan, and I didn’t have anything nice to say to him.
I wouldn’t listen to those messages until after I knew he died. The messages were pocket dials, obviously not planned or intended. I could hear background of the TV and rustling of something. I heard Mike cough. I heard his mom offer him something to drink. Everything was muffled, in the distance. I was just eavesdropping on those last hours.
Those pocket dial messages are now gone forever from my phone. But I’ll always have the memory of our last conversation. Urinal etiquette. Not the topic I would have chosen, if I would have known.