In our family, a phone call always means bad news.
We comfortably cling to current technology and the distance it allows us while keeping us close. Text messages and Facebook status updates are easier to swallow, to keep shallow, to process. A phone call is too personal, too open. With the lines of communication wrenched that wide, old demons are bound to climb from the chasm, to draw blood from healing scars and split fresh tears. Phone calls are screened. And face-to-face meetings? Forget about it.
July 18th, 2011, was the day my mother tried to take her own life. I was nineteen. I got the phone call at four-forty-eight in the morning, from her ex-girlfriend and my best friend. "Your mom tried to kill herself. She's in the hospital, she OD'd on a bunch of pills. I'll meet you there." Click. You learn certain skills while living in chaos. You find yourself in a tight-lipped, red-eyed crisis control mode, where things like sleep and food and meltdowns don't matter.
But we sure know how to network. Within minutes, both of my sisters know as well, their phones lighting up and chirping in the darkness of the bedrooms across town like alarm bells. Within an hour, we are en route, hastily working out transportation when no one owns a car and trying to navigate the city streets on an hour of sleep with no caffeine. It seems impossible. We arrive, we see one another's faces, and we think of how different things look when they aren't sheltered by the shadow of social networking.
We share paper cups of coffee and stale cafeteria sandwiches. We try to keep calm. We wait for news, we take turns sitting beside my unconscious mom, watching her struggle and fight against the medication that keeps her sedated. We don't mention the mainline stapled to her neck or the multiple IVs plugged into her veins or the stench of the catheter.
At the twenty-four hour mark, we go our separate ways to find sleep. It's elusive, and we call each other more often over the next week, between visits to the hospital and quick naps at home, than we will over the next year.
July 18th, 2012 was the anniversary of the day my mother tried to take her own life. I was twenty. I got the phone call at five-thirty-six in the evening, from her ex-girlfriend and my best friend. "The dog is dead. I thought your mom would want to know." Click.
In this family, a phone call is never good news.