A yellow envelope fell from the door knob as I opened the front door. Inside the envelope was a
telegram. I eagerly read the message:
SEND AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD CARE OF AMERICAN EXPRESS ADDIS ABABA.
That was it. No name of sender. No return address. I called Western Union and asked if they
could help. The man who answered my call replied, “Let me get this straight. You got a
telegram from Addis Ababa and YOU DON’T KNOW WHO SENT IT?” Then I occurred to me.
The telegram must have come from my mother.
My mother, Ruth Byrd, (known as Amba by the family), had begun to travel after the death of
my father. She rarely went on organized trips but preferred to fly somewhere, find a hotel, study
a local guide book, visit the interesting local sites, and then decide upon her next destination.
She had left Fort Lauderdale several weeks before. Her mail was being forwarded to my home.
I went to the pile of forwarded mail and found an envelope from American Express. Inside the
envelope were a new American Express card and a letter announcing that her old card was
about to expire.
At the thought of my mother alone in Ethiopia without money I quickly put her new American
Express card into an envelope and rushed to the post office to find out the quickest and safest
way to send the credit card to Ethiopia. The card went on its way.
Several weeks later Amba returned to Ft. Lauderdale. I was so happy to see her home safely,
and anxious to hear about where she had been and how she had handled the expiration of her
credit card. It seems she had been in Greece, and had decided that her next stop would be
Ethiopia. When she purchased her plane ticket to Ethiopia, the ticket agent (BLESS HIS
HEART), informed her that her credit card would expire in two days, and encouraged her to get
plenty of cash so she would have money until she could get her new credit card. So she got
some cash, sent me the telegram and headed to Addis Ababa.
I had one last question for Amba. “Why didn’t you sign the telegram asking me to send the
credit card to Addis Ababa when I had no idea where you were and whether or not the
telegram was really from you?” “But Carol,” she answered, “every word in a cable costs
money. I saw no reason to waste money when I knew you would know who sent the telegram.”