Last night at 11:20 p.m., the phone rang. A late night phone call means one of two things: 1) Really, supersized bad news or; 2) Some drunk guy looking for someone. Last night, a woman’s voice said, “I’m sorry to call so late, but I just got home and there was a message on my machine from Ruby Dunlap saying that Grandma was not at home and there was some type of emergency. Do you know what’s going on?” I said, “Hold on, let me give you to my husband,” and then I passed the phone to him. He was already asleep, while I was just watching the last part of the news with half-closed eyes and trying to read the final page of Vanity Fair.
He listened for a moment, then handed the phone back to me, saying, “It’s one of your relatives!”
Oh. It was my Aunt Geri (I didn’t recognize her voice because we seldom talk on the phone). I asked her if she called my mom–she said my mom’s line was busy. (My mom has dial-up internet, no wonder.) I told her I’d call my mom’s cell and figure this out.
Now, my grandmother is 98 years old and we’ve been thinking for years that she’s going to die sometime. Every Christmas we say, “This could be Grandma’s last Christmas.” Every birthday, every Mother’s Day, same thing. Yet, she just keeps on living alone in her immaculate, little house, blinded by macular degeneration, keeping the thermostat at eighty degrees because she’s always cold.
My mother’s phone rang and rang and then I left a message, hoping she’d pick up. Then I called her cell. No answer. Then I called her regular number again and this time she picked up.
My mom told me that the big emergency at my grandma’s house was that her phone didn’t work. And during the day my mom had picked up Grandma and brought her over to her house and they tried to call Ruby (my grandma’s friend who calls her every day) so Ruby wouldn’t worry, but they hadn’t been able to reach her.
So, Ruby, worried so much that she drove all the way over to Grandma’s house, found Grandma missing and alerted the media! Okay, she only called my Aunt Geri, but still. In the meantime, my mother returned my Grandma home and they called Ruby and all was well. And it turns out that the “phone trouble” was simply a handset that wasn’t quite hung up properly.
Except no one remembered to call Geri. So Geri called me. So, after my mother, Queen of Detailed Stories That Go On and On, told me all this, I called Geri back and told her the short version: Grandma is fine. She was just at my mom’s house.
My husband said, half-asleep, half-joking, “Next time, don’t hand me the phone when it’s your relatives.” I had mistakenly assumed it was a church member, because we occasionally get those kind of church-related calls. A few times, my husband has sprung out of bed into the middle of the night to sit by a hospital bed or hold hands in the emergency room.
My baby, sensing my weariness, called to me at 5:40 a.m.: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” in a tone that suggested she’d been abandoned without food or drink for days on end. I don’t know why she woke up a full two hours earlier than normal, but she did go back to sleep by 6:45 a.m., after I sat and rocked her.
I face the day, then, shrouded in the kind of tired that prompted George Costanza (on Seinfeld) to actually build a bed into the bottom of his desk at work, the kind of tired that reminds me of having mononucleosis, the kind of tired that convinced me to crawl back into bed until 7:00 a.m., rather than shower. Nothing like facing the day bleary-eyed and dirty-haired.