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That I can recall, I have received two phone calls from my mother that, thanks to surrounding events, had me panicking in the seconds between the “Hello?” and the moment I was finally told what the call was about.

The first call was some years ago. I had just gotten back from Vegas with my boss. We’d been there to do one of our A/V events, and my folks just happened to be staying there. They delayed their departure for one day so they could watch me do my job, which, even to this day, is not easy to explain to people. Upon leaving, my boss and I drove back to L.A., and my folks drove back to Colorado, planning to stop in Mesquite overnight.

Soon after I got back to the office, my cell phone rang. It was my mom, hysterical. Hysterical. This was the first panic.

Days before, my sister’s husband had told her he wanted a divorce. It was horrible. She was sad and depressed, as were we all, I think. I remember getting her call about it. I was driving into work, and when she told me, I almost literally burst into tears. It was a sight, I’m sure, me driving on the 101, crying and talking into my headset, trying to pay attention to traffic, which suddenly was the least important thing in the world.

So I panicked when I got my mom’s hysterical call post-Vegas. My mind went to all kinds of horrible places. Was my sister okay? Had something happened? I couldn’t understand my mom. She was incoherent. Panic. I finally had to yell at my mom to shut up (yes, I think I actually said that!) and tell me what happened, and once she calmed down, she told me some… rather excellent news. Very excellent news, in fact. News that I have promised not to write about on my website. Bummer, because it’s a doozy!

First panic unjustified.

Yesterday, my sister went in for gallbladder surgery. My parents are in Nashville now. They got to spend some time with sis on her boat, then helped her with all the logistics of the surgery. Everything went well, and my sister returned home, out of it thanks to the pain killers.

This morning, not long after 6:00, my iPhone rang with the new old-fashioned phone ringtone I’d just assigned to my family. Odd timing. Fuz had already gotten up to get ready for work, so I was already partly awake.

I poured out of bed to answer the phone, and the second panic was now starting. Had something happened in the night? Was Laura okay? I answered and my mom was shaken. Not hysterical, but shaken, holding back some tragedy. I could not think of any good reason she’d sound this way, but I had been wrong last time. Maybe this was a good call…? No. The only thing it could be was complications with my sister’s surgery. Full panic time.

I did not have to yell at at my mother or tell her to shut up this time, but I did have to ask her what was wrong.

My sister’s townhouse burned down in the night. (More coverage here.)

My sister got up to use the restroom at 4:00 this morning. Or did she subconsciously sense something? Whatever it was, she noticed an orange glow from downstairs, went to see what it was, and saw her back deck on fire.

Man, I don’t know how she did it, but in her post-surgurey state, my sister ran around, yelling and screaming, to get my folks and her dog awake and out of the house. Then she ran to the connecting townhouses and woke her neighbors. Everyone got out okay, and no one was hurt.

My sister’s house is destroyed. What is worse, beyond losing the home, is all the memories that are gone. The pictures and videos and all those things you can never replace. My folks lost all the stuff they’d brought: clothing and glasses and ID and credit cards and teeth. The things you kind of need.

On the second call this morning, just as I was getting on the 405 to go to work, my mom told me that the hydrant water pressure was so bad, the firemen could not get the fire hoses working properly. Upsetting. But she also got teary telling me about the Red Cross’ help. They gave my family care baskets, a hotel room and car rental for three days, and vouchers to go buy clothing and necessities. I actually get teary thinking about that because I thought we were beyond that kind of aid in today’s America.

At 6 this morning, because my mind was turning to the worst, hearing that everyone was okay actually made me calm. My absolute worst fears had not materialized, and I was immediately relieved for that, even though a different and very surprising tragedy had taken place.

Second panic justified, but, thankfully, not fully.

1 Comment

SSneaky Expounded Thusly:

Oh Steve! I am so very sorry to hear about this! That is the exact thing I have feared for a long time now. I will most definitely be purchasing a fireproof safe, as well as renting a safety deposit box at the bank. I have always thought I should have a full backup of all my pictures and videos, and keep my most important documents somewhere safe.


Friday, August 3rd, 2007 • 8:07am • Permalink


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