I always have my phone on me. I make sure I can either hear it ring or feel it vibrate. Before I go to bed I change my phone from vibrate to ringer and place it under my pillow so that there is no way I’ll miss it if someone needs to get a hold of me.
I am paranoid that I’ll miss an important call. Traumatized by a call I missed in high school.
Today we were on the track. Instead of running sprints and drills on the practice football field we were running sprints and racing each other on the track. It was my sophomore year of high school and my 4th year of playing football. That afternoon I had left my phone at the practice field, far out of earshot.
We had just finished our first set of 150s, which if you’ve ever done know how brutal they are. I remembering running around the track doing a bit of a cool down before our next set of sprints when I heard my coach yelling my name. He was standing at the other end of the track near the bleachers and someone was standing next to him. She called my name, “Kumar!” Her voice sounded hurried, but not panicked. I started to jog across the soccer field towards them. The woman was tall and had blonde hair. Coach Crosswhite yelled, “Kumar c’mon hurry up”. As I got closer I realized Katherine was standing next to Coach Crosswhite, my girlfriend’s mother.
What’s going on I thought? Did something happen to Kelsey, my girlfriend? Why is Katherine here? I started to feel a bit anxious. The sun was bearing down on us from the west and I tried to read the emotions on her face as I got closer, but I couldn’t tell if she was pursing her eyebrows and forehead because of the sun or some tragic news.
“Hey” I say, hesitantly looking from Coach Crosswhite to Katherine for some expression that would give them away “what’s up?”
“Kumar you need to go home” replied Katherine with a straight face, meanwhile Coach Crosswhite had moseyed away and was shouting at a few of my teammates to get back to their drills.
“What?” I shot back, now thoroughly perplexed. What the hell was going on? I started sifting through all the possible things that could’ve gone wrong, but could barely start before Katherine said, “Your mom called me and said you need to come home.”
Oh fuck, I think to myself. Dad. Something has happened to dad. Did he die? Its too soon he can’t die, they said he had at least a year left. This was supposed to be slow drawn out process and we would know before he died. He can’t have died.
“Do you want me to drive you home?”
“No, I’ve got my car. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?” Katherine hesitated before adding “its no problem.” Shit, something bad definitely happened, why else would she offer to drive.
“No, I’m fine” I hurried responded as I turned and ran to Coach Crosswhite and told him I had to go. He nodded and I took off running towards the practice football field.
I grabbed my shoes, hat and car keys and hopped into my mom’s green Prius. I pulled out of the parking lot and floored it.
By the time I got to The Lane, the half-mile gravel entrance to our community, I had really started freaking out. What about Lila? I thought. She isn’t home and it’ll take her at least an hour to get home. Has anyone called her to tell her? I really want her to be home. I sped down The Lane, at 35 mph, kicking up dust and shooting bits of gravel into the dense honeysuckle undergrowth. As I tore down The Lane and skidded around the final tight corner to our house I saw what I had been dreading. All of the Hospice workers’ cars were there.
I turned off the car in the middle of the driveway and scrambled out and headed for the ramp. I frantically tried to glance in the windows to see what had happened. My eyes filled with tears as I neared the metal wheel chair ramp. I started full out crying. I couldn’t think anymore I just wanted to get inside. Through the kitchen door window I could see Liz, a caretaker standing with a few other caretakers and some neighbors. They heard the ramp sway and creek as I ran down it and looked up as I burst through the door.
Someone said, “he’s ok, but he gave us a scare” they added as I searched the room for him or my mom, “he’s in the bathroom.”
I made my way to the bathroom and saw them both siting there in his fully tiled bathroom. My mom on a chair next to him in his wheelchair. He was soaked. He looked pretty pitiful, wet, weak and clearly still in shock. As I hugged him he burst into tears with me and we both cried for a few moments. Still in tears I pulled back and asked “What about Lila?”
“She’s on the way, Beth is bringing her home.” My mom said as she quietly wiped tears from her face.
After I stopped crying and could catch my breath I asked “what happened?” At that moment one of the caretakers came in and wanted to check on dad so we stepped out and mom explained what had happened. He was taking a bath and June, the caretaker watching him, had gone into the kitchen as usual and left him alone while she was reading. The intercom was set up so he could ask her for anything whenever he needed. But his breathing tube had fallen off and he tried to yell to June but couldn’t muster the breath to yell loud enough. His arms and hands were too weak to put the tube back on and he almost lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. Luckily June decided to check on him and found him almost unconscious with the breathing tube knocked off. She was able to put the tube back on, get him breathing again and get him out of the bath. After which she had called my mom and a few other caretakers. They said that they weren’t entirely sure he was going to recover at first which is why June called everyone and mom called me.
After hearing this and going in and giving him another hug I went upstairs because being in the kitchen was too stressful with all the other caretakers and neighbors. Once in my room I flipped open my phone and saw a few missed calls. Some from home and others from Katherine and the caretakers.
Shit, I thought. If I had had my phone on me I never would’ve missed those calls. If he had not made it I would’ve been too late because I missed those calls.
This one incident, even though things worked out, it still traumatized me. Every time I get a call from my mom I drop whatever I’m doing and pick it up. In some cases if I am unable to pick it up and she calls again I totally freak out and assume the worst. Someone is dead.
To make things worse when I was visiting colleges in Minnesota I woke up one morning to a voicemail from my grandfather. He had called to tell me my grandmother, Granny, had passed away the night before. Yet another instance of my fear of phone calls.