I don't usually pick up the phone when I'm driving. Not only is it illegal, but I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who feels that each time I do it successfully I am tempting fate.
But something, perhaps the string of bad news and unfortunate events that had been dogging me that week, made me reach for the phone when I saw my husband's number blink across the screen.
"Where are you?"
"On my way ..."
He didn't let me finish.
Something was wrong. And the phone kept cutting out.
"... I was .. lawn chair. ... finger. ... cut off ... ambulance ... You need to get the (expletive deleted) home NOW!"
I heard that last part loud and clear.
He added an "I love you," to soften the panic in his words before he hung up.
I tossed the phone and concentrated on driving. But my mind was making moving pictures of the possibilities:
He had invited some friends over for swimming. There had been an accident and someone was hurt. Possibly disfigured. My initial understanding was that my husband had cut off a finger in a mishap with a folding chair. That was bad enough, but the mom side of my mind couldn't let go of the idea that maybe it had been a child whose name could rhyme with "I was" if you said it just the right way against the static.
I started driving faster than my usual, senior citizen-like speed concentrating on the road instead of my mental motion picture.When I arrived the ambulance was turning around and ready to leave. I could see my husband on the gurney hugging his arm, wrapped in a towel, to his chest. He smiled painfully.
I breathed a little in relief. "Damage to a finger isn't as bad as damage to a four-year-old's body."
Still, I stood like a deer in the headlights, stopping the ambulance to ask all the questions our guests, waiting inside, could have answered: What happened? Amputation! What hospital? AMC!
Inside the children were watching TV, but not as calmly as it first appeared. Ittybit all but ignored the video and tried, instead, to gauge the situation by parsing how many expletives rushed forth from her father's mouth.
Everyone was trying to change the subject.
As soon as my children saw me their tears started to flow. They had seen more of the accident than they had let on."It's just a bad cut that needs more than a Band-Aid to fix," assured our guests, one of whom had also hunted in the weed-choked yard during the dusk-descending aftermath, for the remnant. The other had called for the rescue squad.I stood silently, nodded and hugged my kids. "It's just a deep cut. Not as bad as it sounds. He's going to get a few stitches and be home before you know it."
It was all true, of course - the cut was neither as bad as it seemed nor as bad as it could have been in the crushing jaws of an ancient, adjustable lawn chair. It was just a mishap gory enough to warrant sewing, antibiotics, a bandage as thick as a boxing glove and at least two visits of follow-up care. Not to mention the investment in updated outdoor furnishings.It would be all right. But it was also going to be a long night. The boy would have his first-ever away-from-home sleepover, the girl would get as much sweetened cereal as she liked, and I would get a security badge and a chair in emergency room B-19.
Oddly enough, when a terrifying event isn't as bad as you'd otherwise expect, you can almost relax and enjoy yourself.
You tell jokes. You make conversation. You take pictures with that very same smart phone you wish you didn't have to answer.
And you call to thank your friends again, and to let them know it's going well ... and not to open any pictures the patient might have sent in his shock-induced frenzy. At least, not if they planned to eat anything for breakfast.