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SLOWLY MOUNTING PANIC
2 June 2006
We're the sort of family that is used to tragic news being delivered at all hours of the day and night.
Things have "happened" in this family, starting back in 1971 when I tried to reach my sister by telephone at her office and nobody knew where she was, everyone unaware that she was lying in an operating room at San Francisco General Hospital, while they tried to remove a bullet or two from her head.
Then there was the phone call that came in 1986 to let me know that my best friend's operation had gone horrible wrong and they didn't know whether he'd live or die. Sitting by the phone, waiting for news that finally came. "Bev, Gilbert died...."
Then there was the phone call that interrupted preparations for the party that was being thrown in our honor at New York City back in 1996. Ned on the phone with the news about David.
Three years later it was the 11 p.m. phone call that caller I.D. identified as being from Paul, but which was actually a member of the Davis police telling us that Paul was dead.
Yeah--we know from terrible messages being delivered by telephone.
What's worse is when there is no phone call, and there should be.
Walt went off to Berkeley today, for his usual dentist appointment. He makes a day of it--gets his teeth cleaned, has lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, wanders around the streets, visits some book stores, and then heads home. When I heard the 6 p.m. traffic report, they were talking about a massive eastbound traffic jam between here and San Francisco and I figured he'd be late, so I wasn't concerned when Jeopardy ended at 7 p.m. and he still wasn't home.
I was a little surprised that he hadn't called, though. Usually when he hits heavy traffic, he calls to let me know where he is and that he's going to be late.
I decided I'd get dinner started, since it was going to take an hour to cook. I was making chicken thighs and decided I'd use the new garlic wine that Dick and Gerry had brought from their visit to Gilroy, the garlic capital of California. But I couldn't get the bottle opened.
The evening was not going well.
I made do with some other combination of flavors and got the chicken in the oven. By now it was 8 p.m. and I was starting to get worried.
I called Walt on his cell phone, but there was no answer. How odd. He always has it one when he's on one of these trips to the Bay Area. In fact, he frequently uses the time to chat with Jeri. I couldn't figure out why he would have his cell phone off.
It was also irritating that I couldn't find out how long it would be before he got home.
By 8:30 this was getting more than irritating. It was getting downright scary. I was envisioning the tangled wreck of the car, and figuring that the cell phone didn't answer because it had somehow become mangled in a terrible accident.
I also figured that maybe I was just being melodramatic. But where was he?
I settled in to watch the only movie left of our latest batch of Netflix that I hadn't seen. By an unfortunate coincidence, it happened to be Flight Plan, the Jodie Foster terrorist thriller where she can't find her daughter on a huge airplane and is getting more and more panicked as she tears the plane apart wondering where the little girl had disappeared to.
Swell. Just exactly the kind of movie to take my mind off of what might have happened to Walt.
At 9, I finally called my mother so she could tell me how silly I was being, but she was concerned too.
"The police won't do anything until he's missing for 2 days," she told me.
I wasn't really worried about his being missing as much as about his being in an accident. She agreed that I should call the highway patrol.
Naturally the highway patrol office was closed, but I was able to call their emergency number and waited on line for a long time until I finally got someone who did a check on Walt's name and assured me that there were no reports of his being in an accident...or arrested.
I ate dinner (when stressed, eat--the chicken was delicious, I think) and called his cell phone a couple more times, not really expecting it to magically be on again, but not knowing what else to do.
I sat down to watch the movie again and I really don't know how, but a snippet of a conversation Walt had with Char at the memorial popped into my head.
"Will I see you this week?" I remember hearing him ask her.
The symphony. He must be at the symphony. He joins Mike and Char for symphony concerts, but I swear he never mentioned to me that he was going to the symphony. Either he never mentioned it to me, or my Alzheimers is progressing faster than I realize.
I called Char's cell phone (she doesn't have a land line phone, so the cell phone is the only way you can reach her) and there was no answer there either. Suspicions pretty much confirmed. The only way she would turn her phone off was if she was at a show...or the symphony.
I started breathing again and watched the end of the movie (great movie, by the way). Next thing I know, my cell phone is ringing and it's Char. She and Mike and Walt are on BART, heading to their respective cars following the symphony.
Later, Walt called when he got to the car. "Don't you remember?" he asked. He reminded me that we had discussed the symphony at the memorial and that I had even talked with them about the crepe restaurant where they were going to eat dinner. He also reminded me that I was on the telephone with the psychiatrist, discussing some changes he wanted made in a report I had typed, when he left for the office this morning, which was why he hadn't said anything about what time he'd be home.
That's when I remembered that it was my dentist who had called with an appointment reminder this week, not his--and that his dental appointment isn't for several weeks yet.
After that conversation, I felt pretty much like a total idiot. But I'll tell ya, I had no difficulty identifying with Jodie Foster's slowly mounting panic as she ransacked the plane looking for her daughter.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Photo by Peggy