When my mom’s condition took a turn for the worse, the doctors said it was matter of days to weeks before she died. This was December. She died in March. Consequently, we spent over 3 months waiting for The Phone Call saying it was over.
In practice, what this meant was that every time my phone rang and it was a member of my family (sisters, father, or grandparents), my heart would skip a beat. In Hebrew there’s a saying, “My heart fell into my underwear.” While graphic, it perfectly illustrates the feeling. The fear of The Phone Call was also extended to practically any unidentified phone numbers as well.
When you know you’re waiting for The Phone Call, especially over a 3 month period, it changes the way you function. You can’t turn off your phone. You can’t make long-term plans. You can’t really make short-term plans, either. At best, you have to tell everyone that your plans are tentative just in case.
Don’t get me wrong – I pretty much stopped going out and meeting with people, so most of my “plans” were actually just “see you in ballet class on Wednesday.”
You also need to be available at all times and in all situations. I spoke to my ballet teachers and explained the situation to them, and requested to have my cell phone (on vibrate) next to me on the barre just in case.
Of course, this lead to nightmares of receiving The Phone Call during class. And I so didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want my sanctuary to get tainted.
Luckily, it didn’t. With all the planning, all the fears, all the near-fainting, all the tentativeness of my life over 3 months, The Phone Call ended up coming in at 1:30 in the morning from my sister with the simple words, “Mom’s dead.”
And that was that. The Phone Call was over. Months of anticipation, not knowing when it will happen, secretly hoping for a miracle, but not expecting one, over with 2 words.
What a relief. We spent so much time waiting and anticipating and fearing, that it was actually like a shot: You fear the needle, but then don’t feel it at all.
Now we’re back to the waiting for The Phone Call again. My grandfather hasn’t been well since my mom died, and he’s in the hospital now. Yesterday the doctor’s found that he has an aneurysm in his neck leading to his artery, and it can burst any time. He’s 91, so there’s no way they’ll operate. He can go on with it for a long time, or it can end tomorrow.
So now we’re waiting again, though This Phone Call will be different. While you expect to have your 56 year old mother around for a few more dozen years, you don’t expect your 91 year old grandfather to hang around for that much longer.
The way I see it, past our childhood and early adulthood, every extra moment that our grandparents are around is a blessing. If they get to be at your wedding, that’s wonderful. If they get to meet your children, that’s incredible.
The mental preparation, therefore, is different. However, due to everything we’ve been through in the last few years, I can’t even fathom losing my grandfather. My paternal grandparents passed away when I was 6 and 8 years old, so (until my mother) I hadn’t really experienced loss like this. So it is, in fact, new.
I’d like to be able to say, “Well, it’s already been over a year since Mom died, at least we had some quiet” but that would be untrue. I hadn’t fully recovered from the anxiety of waiting for The Phone Call. Any phone call before 10 am or after 10 pm from a family member made me jump.
So I’m back to the anxiety from before, or at least a version of it. My body can’t handle the full version anymore. But there is one huge difference between This Phone Call and That Phone Call. While there was no real hope attached to That One, at least This One could be years off. I so hope it will be.