My cell phone doesn’t ring much. I’ve never been a real chatty person, especially on the phone. It’s getting worse as I get older. As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t hear as well on the phone as I used to. I’d like to blame it on my old phone or the poor connection we sometimes get in the country, but whatever the reason, I end up saying “Huh” and “What was that” a lot more often than I’d like. When my phone rings, I’m usually in Wal-Mart, and David is calling from the automotive or electronics department wondering when I’ll be ready to check out. So yesterday when my phone rang, and the caller ID showed a number with the area code where Mom lives, a jolt of apprehension twisted my stomach into a knot.
“This is Southridge Village where you mother lives. I wanted to let you know that Mrs. Robinson has been throwing up blood, and we called an ambulance to take her to the emergency room to get her checked out.”
“Have you called my brother?” He lives about three miles from Southridge.
“We weren’t able to contact him, but we spoke to his wife. She’s going to meet the ambulance at the hospital. We’ll call you as soon as we know anything.”
The hardest part of being a long-distance caregiver is the waiting. While you wait, you worry. Is it serious? Is she in pain? Is she scared? Should we jump in the car and head that way? The second hardest part is the imagination running wild. Maybe it’s a bleeding ulcer. That’s pretty easy to fix, isn’t it. But she’s been putting on a lot of weight lately. Maybe she has a tumor in her abdomen. Maybe it’s the Big C. Maybe it’s…
My phone rang again. It was my sister-in-law.
“Hi. It’s JoLynn. Did Southridge get in touch with you?”
“Yes, they called a little while ago. Any news yet?”
“No, I just got to the hospital, and the ambulance just arrived.”
“Did you get hold of Jim?”
“Yes. He’s on the lake, fishing with Sean. I’ll call him back as soon as I find out what’s going on.”
I could hear the tension in her voice. She lost both her parents two years ago, and we lost Dad in May. Now here she was again, at the hospital.
“I’m sorry you’re having to go through this alone.”
“It’s okay. I just hope they’ll let me sign the papers for her. I’ll call you.”
The next phone call was from Jim.
“Hey, I think we’re okay. I talked with the staff at Southridge, and they had spaghetti for dinner. The staff nurse had left for the day. I’m hoping they were just being overly cautious. I’ll let you know.”
He called back a few minutes later.
“The doctor came in while I was on the phone with you. She wasn’t throwing up blood. It was marinara sauce.”
It will be funny once the adrenaline dies down.
“We’ve made some other discoveries, too. I talked with the nurse about Mom’s weight, and she agreed to cut down on her portions a little bit. But they’ve also been watching her table a little more closely.”
The residents are seated at tables for four in the dining room, and Mom shares her meals with her three best friends. One of them is a mother-hen type who believes in clean plates.
“It seems that Mom cleans not only her plate, but at the encouragement of her friend, everyone else’s plate at the table. She also spends a lot of time in her friend’s apartment, and that place looks like a candy store. You know how little impulse control Mom has. It’s no wonder she’s gained weight.”
So, marinara sauce instead of blood. Leftovers and candy instead of a growing tumor. Good news. Relief. Until the next phone call.