Monday, March 29, 2010

The phone rang

The phone rang.

It had been nearly a year since the last call of this type.   Her mother's voice told her something was wrong.  Dad's in the hospital.  An exhausting ordeal that included frightening words like broken ribs, MRI found an aortic aneurism, and narcotics reactions,  and urgent need for surgery.  The ordeal stretched on and after surgery included staph infection, 3 months of iv antibiotics, and loss of independence.  Finally the end of the tunnel was visible and although weaker, her father seemed better, nearly himself again.  Her mother, it seemed, would likely never be the same again.  Mom had seen the signs and had begun to ready herself, while she and her sisters and brothers continue to deny it.

The phone rang.

Even before answering, she knew it was not good.  Words like hospital, pneumonia, lungs, pain came across the line.  This time she wanted to stay in denial.  Last time had been too hard.  She let another sibling take the lead.  Let them suffer in the halls of the hospital this time...the waiting...the meds...the hallucinations...the not knowing...the never knowing.  

The phone rang.  

The news was not good.  Come now. Come now.  She went.  The news was bad.  Stage 4.  Pain management or treatment?  Her father was a fighter.  He wanted to try.  Treatment.  Immediate.  At the airport they all went their separate ways.  Mother and father with big sister home for new doctors and poison to kill the disease, but hopefully save the patient.  Other siblings flew separately to their own cities and their own lives.  She sat and waited.  Her flight was last.  She had kissed and waved everyone else away.  She sat.  And sat.

Opening her laptop she began to write.  One way that she could always find peace was to write it out.  But instead of writing of current events, she began writing of future...and of past.  What poured from her keyboard was a eulogy.  

The phone rang.

She was in another airport.  Only a short time had passed and much of it had been a blur.  Work, life, thinking...thinking...thinking.  Today she was on her way to her hometown to see her father and take part in the poison treatment and to make plans...of what kind she did not know yet. She was in the middle of the country...halfway between a conference and home...just a stop along the way.  The phone jerked her closer to home.  "I'll meet you at the airport." the voice said "and take you to the hospital.  The ambulance is on its way."

She boarded the plane in a haze.  Thinking. Thinking.  And needed to stop thinking.  She reached into the pocket of the seatback and found a gift.  Someone had left a book.  She buried her mind in the story and read it cover to cover on the short flight between the middle of the country and home.  The lives in this book were easier to manage than the pain that might await her.

The phone rang.

I'm here.  Come to the curb. He's in the ER.  We all surround the bed.  Sometimes he makes sense.  Sometimes it's nonsense.  Mostly he tells us he doesn't want to be a bother.  He tells us to save our money.  He tells us he loves us.  The doctors have other things to say.  Infection.  No immune system.  Only a matter of time.  Can we let him go? Sign this release.

She picked up the phone.

She made the call this time...to family and friends. Come quick.  Come say goodbye.  He wants to say goodbye.  She holds his hand.  Something is changing.  Call everyone to come now.  Wake them.  Get them up from the waiting room.  A tear trickles down his cheek.  His breathing changes and with a sigh, he is gone.

The phone rang.

And although she winces, she answers.  Not bad news. Relief. Normalcy.  It would be so easy to think of the phone as an enemy.  But she chooses to remember other times the phone rang.  When someone called to say they loved her.  To say they were proud.  To hear the latest on job. House. Husband. Hell, just to hear her voice.  And in her dreams, when the phone rings, she forces these conversations to the front.  And hears her Dad's joyful chuckles and stupid jokes, and hears the easiness in her Mom's voice, and hears the general news of the day from friends and family.  Just this day, this one day, does the phone still haunt her.  Seven years to the day since the call to his side was the last.

2 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

He would be proud of your choice.

pinklea said...

Been there, done that. It's only been three years for me. I don't think you ever "get over" a life-changing event like a parent's death, but you do get mostly around it. Lovely writing, Wenderina, so full of emotion!