You know it’s not going to be a good phone call when the first words you hear — even before “hello” — are, “Your daughter is OK, but…”
Ah, the joys of parenthood!
In the 0.8 seconds it took for the word after “but” to be uttered, Dear Ol’ Dad’s mind already had rounded up a bundle of possibilities and was casting about for more.
Auto accident? No, I got that call two years ago. She prefers variety with her excitement.
She fell at the Radio Shack she manages and was attacked by the Robo Dog? No, that was a Christmas product. I think she sold out of those.
Elephants escaped from the zoo and ran through her living room? Martians invaded and she was all out of the Cheez-its they demanded for her ransom?
Oh, no! Did Hillary and Barack showed up on her doorstep and engage in fisticuffs when she said, “Who? No, we have enough cookies.”
Before I could drift from the realm of logic into some really weird possibilities, the caller finished the sentence.
“… there’s a standoff at her apartment complex. It’s not her building. But police have the whole complex sealed off and she and everyone else are locked down.”
OK, I didn’t see that one coming.
The other thing I hadn’t anticipated was that no matter how old both you and they get, you always want to hear “Hello” as the first word when you answer the phone. When the caller greets me with, “Now, there’s no need to panic, but …,” panic is the first thing I do.
Twenty-one years ago, the words following “but” were, “… your daughter rolled off the bed and hit the carpet. She’s fine. She thought it was funny. I’m a wreck!”
After ascertaining Melissa really was OK, I felt a great sense of relief – because the baby rolled off the bed on her mom’s watch, not mine! Imagine the grief a dad would be in from a mom if he’d let the baby get away with diving lessons, giggling or not.
From there, we moved up to stomachaches, scraped knees, front teeth, twisted ankles and the like. Whatever it was, I always imagined worse before we rounded the corner after “but.”
When Melissa moved 530 miles away to Virginia Beach, the calls were harder because I couldn’t be right there. Also, she was advancing beyond tripping over the dog in the living room.
“Your daughter’s OK but…”
“… she was just in a car accident. She and Joanie thought they’d zip to Starbucks during class change at high school and someone hit them.”
And now we’ve come to this. Her mom – also unable to be right there but at least in the same city – telling me, “There was a shooting but it was in another building, a block and a half away in her complex. But no one’s getting in and no one’s going out. The police have it surrounded.”
Next call: “YOUR daughter and her friends said they were getting hungry while in lockdown, so the sneaked away to the 7-Eleven for some food, then, after they were away from the danger, sneaked BACK into the complex!”
About that fall off the bed 21 years ago…
When it was over and I had her on the phone, she merely laughed and said, “He was after someone else, not me, so I wasn’t worried. Can we hang up so I can go back to sleep now?”
My daughter’s OK but … her parents are nervous wrecks.