When I was a kid in the 1950s and ’60s, a phone call was usually for something important, as in a death in the family or a medical emergency. Since my mother was the youngest of 12, we received many of the former. As time went on, phone calls became more frequent — and not every one was as emotionally laden. But one such call arrived in 2006 — just before I got my first cellphone — and I missed it.

My wife and I had just returned from North Carolina and checked the answering machine. There it was, a call from my sister: “Come to Inland Hospital as soon as you can! Mom is dying!”

I arrived at the hospital a few minutes later to find our 89-year-old mother on life support and gasping for breath. The attending physician was unwilling to pull the plug and her primary care doctor was out of town. The nurses, my sister and I all agreed that her suffering should end, so the next morning I was able to talk on the phone to her doctor, who concurred — and agreed to a merciful end. The machines were turned off, and 15 minutes later, mom passed.

Alexander Graham Bell’s invention has saved countless lives, and ended thousands as well. Emergency 911 was created during my lifetime. My use of it when stuck in a blizzard in 2009 saved me. So did my granddaughter’s use of it when I had a heart attack in 2011. Billions of people worldwide feel connected and conduct business, manage affairs, communicate love and hate, and make friends and enemies with it.

The easy connectivity has resulted in a modern curse — the dreaded robocall. But in spite of my increasingly curmudgeonly attitude toward many aspects of life, I still react when I hear the ring, thinking, “Ah, a phone call.”

John E. Lawrence lives in Winslow.

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