Everyone has a time threshold by which to judge the emergency-ness/bad news factor of a phone call. The older you get the earlier that time gets. For instance, if someone were to call you at 11:30 p.m. when you’re twenty-two, you think nothing of it. Why? Because going out to drink at 11:30 p.m. any night of the week is a perfectly logical thing to happen and having someone call you to do that is reasonable.
Apparently, that bad news time is 9:09 p.m. for me. That’s what time Ziggy started singing Sister #2’s ringtone, The Hold Steady’s “Girls Like Status.” My stomach fell. We’re not phone callers. Most things can be communicated in an e-mail or text. Urgent needs can be handled by instant message.
A phone call after 9 p.m. could only mean something bad. I answered the phone and heard a watery, jittery, “Jodi?” Sister #2 then proceeded to sob talk in a language that can only be described as dolphinesque.
“You have to breathe,” I said, making sure to keep my voice steady even though my heart was racing and I was terrified. Between our mom fighting breast cancer and our dad’s history of heart problems, my mind jumped to the very worst conclusions.
“Jaycie fell,” she choked out. My thirteen-year-old niece had gone snowboarding at Buck Hill with a friend. “She had a seizure.”
I have no idea how I remained so calm as I talked to my distraught sister. I think most of my regular responses were cancelled out by the white hot terror that burned through me.
“Okay,” I said. “She’s going to be fine. You have to breathe.”
“I’m just so scared,” she wailed.
Eventually she calmed down enough to tell me that she would call me back as soon as she knew something. Once we hung up, the fear really set in. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to call Sisters #3 or #4 when I had no idea what the hell was going on. So I sat in silence with my phone clutched in my hand and repeatedly chanted to myself “she’s going to be fine, she’s going to be fine.”
I did this for 30 minutes. It felt like four score and seven years.
But I checked my phone and it was only thirty minutes later that Sister #2 called again. Jaycie was fine. She fell, hit her head, and they had her in a neck brace, but she could talk, she was alert, and could move her arms and legs. She was okay.
Seriously, it was the worst 30 minutes of my entire life thus far.
It was only after we hung up that I totally fell to pieces, my body finally acknowledging how scared I was. I bawled through calls with Sisters #3 & #4 where I learned starting a phonecall with “now don’t freak out” is the surest way to get someone to freak out.
But Jaycie is okay. She’s sore and pretty shaken up, but she’s okay. She’ll probably recover quicker than my sister.