Parenthood: Call of Duty

rotary-phoneWhen the call went to the answering machine after the seventh ring, I suspected something was wrong. Esther leaves the house only for doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and church on Sunday mornings. And her 50-something year old son only leaves the house for the doctor. So, the lack of an answer to my regular Tuesday evening call to remind Esther we’d be shopping together in the morning was highly unusual. I called again a few minutes later just in case Esther hadn’t been able to get to the phone in time. No answer.

Just as my kids scrambled upstairs to brush their teeth, I called again. Esther picked up before the end of the first ring. She explained her son was in the hospital. “Do you think I did the right thing?” she asked. The child-like worry that she had misbehaved in some way sounded desperate over the phone line. This almost-90 year old woman had found her son unresponsive in bed. She hadn’t panicked, she said. She wanted to remain faithful to her son’s wishes. So, even as he pulled shallow, weak breaths into his lungs, she didn’t call 911. Even as his head, heavy in her hands, felt like dead weight, she knew he didn’t want to be in a hospital.

So she had waited, trying to wake him up. But after an hour, she finally called the doctor. “Call emergency,” the doctor had said. No, no he doesn’t want the hospital, she’d worried. Doesn’t a doctor make a house calls anymore? “Call emergency,” came the repeated advice. And so she did.

Seven people, some from an ambulance others from a fire truck, crowded into the dark room filled with dusty, cat-loved furniture and cigarette-tinged air. A shot from a big needle woke up Esther’s son. And it took four people to carry him down to the stretcher. The ambulance, lights still flashing welcomed her child as the grumpy neighbor grunted from his porch.

“Did I lock the door?” Esther wondered aloud as she was slowly helped into the passenger seat of the paramedic’s truck. One of the nice men jogged over to check, nodded. Yes, the door was locked, and her key was safe in her purse.

The emergency room was what she expected from last time. Bright, occasional rushing with long periods of waiting, chilly, loud — like many other emergency rooms. And now Esther’s son was admitted to the hospital, and she needed to know if she’d done the right thing.

“Yes, Esther,” I told her. “What else could you do? He’s safe now.”

And with that, an almost 90-year old woman had her first good night’s sleep in months; someone else was watching and listening for her 50-something year old son.

And with that, I trudged upstairs to get baby teeth brushed and bedtime stories read for two children I know will always be my babies, even fifty years from now.


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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. Do The Most Good.
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42 Responses to Parenthood: Call of Duty

  1. outlawmama says:

    Oh poor Esther. I hope her sons ok.

  2. I’m so glad you pushed through your blogging block to publish this. This line: “Seven people, some from an ambulance others from a fire truck, crowded into the dark room filled with dusty, cat-loved furniture and cigarette-tinged air.” was worth the wait.

  3. Robbie says:

    Aww..poor Esther. I am curious about the rest of the story….

  4. so brutally honest and sad. life can be so sad.

  5. mamarific says:

    Man, I feel for that woman, and selfishly, I hope this is never me. All of your details, down to the grumpy neighbor, made this really come to life.

  6. I see it with my parents and now with my 23 and 20 year olds. They are always our babies and we always want to do right by them.

  7. Stacie says:

    Oh poor Esther. Life is so unfair sometimes. But I don’t know enough about this. I think if a 50-something son needs a hospital, you call right away despite his wishes. Glad to see you got through your writer’s block. Mine is still going strong, ugh!

  8. Karen says:

    This is really well written. The last two sentences were so powerful!

  9. wcdameron says:

    So much here in the story that is unsaid, as much as said and that is what makes this story so compelling

  10. zoe says:

    Such a bittersweet post…beautifully written.

  11. It speaks volumes. I knew from my first read, I’d follow you blog. This reinforces what I knew in my gut. You’re a writer. A damn good one.

  12. shreyapunj says:

    Short. Crisp. Beautiful. Heartfelt.
    Loved it!
    I hope both Esther and her son are doing well.

  13. Linda Roy says:

    Wow. I hope Esther’s son is going to be okay. We’re always “Mom”. Always needed at some point by our babies, no matter what age.

  14. bethteliho says:

    Aw, my eyes welled up (damnit). That was so sweet and so sad at the same time. I absolutely love how you wrote it, like I was unfolding the information, bit by bit, in delicate paper. So perfectly described I could visualize the boy’s room, and Esther. I hope he’s okay, and they are okay. UGH. And of course you got me in the heart with your last lines cuz I have two little ones here that will always be my babies, even 50 years from now.

  15. nataliedeyoung says:

    I can’t imagine the kind of strength it takes, to be a ninety year old mother taking care of a fifty-something ill son. What a remarkable woman – I’m glad you told her story.

  16. Woah. Reading this I am feeling all the feelings. Worry about her son, worry about her, worry about my own and what would I do and how would I feel.
    Nice writing here my friend. Keep us posted.

  17. you are a good neighbor, and oh my heart cracks for esther. you tell their story beautifully.

  18. So compelling – beautifully told sad story. I hope Esther continues to sleep peacefully. What a kind, generous neighbor you are.

    • I’ll accept your compliment, but only because my time with Esther (not her real name) is a conscious decision to donate my time selflessly. Because I live far from my own parents, I feel like I owe it to the ether to help someone who could use an “extra” child to help out. Don’t know if that makes sense.

  19. anna says:

    Loved reading this even if it is an uneasy story, am glad Esther has you.

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