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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Birth (infancy) (08/20/09)

TITLE: Calls
By Angie Wolf



My forty-eight-year old neurologically impaired brother had an orange-sized cyst. I lived in Michigan. He lived in Florida. A weekly three minute self-initiated telephone conversation of few words because of his limited vocabulary kept us close and connected.

I glanced into the living room, annoyed that another power outage had interrupted my morning devotions, and then there was a beep; an ear and soul piercing beep from my cell phone that I sensed was a shrill cry for immediate attention. If the beep had been actual words, those words would have been “Respond now.” I flipped open the phone, saw the source of the call, and felt, before answering it, drained. It was the kind of drained that I’d felt when I’d neglected to replenish my body’s energy with a cup of juice and a cookie after donating blood.

I rendered a friendly yet tentative hello to the female voice on the other end and asked, “What’s up?” but what I really wanted to say was “Go ahead with the bad news because I know that’s why you’re calling.” She must have picked up the concern in my tone. “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay.” she said. I didn’t want to hear her hollow words of assurance. I wanted to make my own decision about whether worry was warranted. As crazy as it may be, I didn’t have many possessions, and there was a small part of me that resented anyone trying to take away anything that I owned, even if it was something both negative and intangible like worry. I also preferred bad, or not so good, news straight up, sort of like some drinkers prefer their alcoholic beverages. No ice or calming prefaces. No decorative little umbrellas or verbal niceties. Just let me have it, and the quicker the better.

I sighed as I thought about how my online entrepreneurial pursuit was becoming less desirable and more of a headache every day. At one time, it had been a saving grace affording me the opportunity and freedom to do what I do best, focus on many activities all at once without the constraints of a typical 9-5 job. However, another deadline was quickly approaching and still I hadn’t begun the project. I tried not to let preoccupation with the “job” rule and reign my consciousness but my attempts were unsuccessful.

I paced back and forth from the dining room to the tiny but fully equipped home office. Images vividly flashed in my mind, as if I was reviewing them with a digital camera. Two months ago, before the extensive medical testing, my brother was active and fully functioning at the assisted living facility. He had always been so engaged in his crossword puzzle solving and find-a-words that the sound of a phone ringing or the call of his name went unnoticed by him. I wondered if he knew what had happened to his body or if it escaped his understanding like so many other obvious things.

Usually when I thought of him, I envisioned his bright but vacant eyes and quirky smile, but this time I could see nothing. I walked down the hall that separated one section of the apartment from the other and looked on the wall where a picture of the two of us hung. It reflected an afternoon at Miami Beach when we collected shells and watched the tide of the Atlantic roll in and out. Good day. There was something about the beach that made me feel fresh and alive like a newborn that had just emerged from my mother’s womb.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter what news a phone call could or would bring.

Memories of warm sand between my toes and a tropical breeze had a way of making what would be the most difficult day for a brother and sister bearable.

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This article has been read 402 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 08/29/09
There's a lot of emotions in this! Using a name (even fictionalized) helps the reader relate. Thanks for sharing this story.
Ruth Brown09/01/09
I like your style. The emotional content was well done. We all find ways to cope. Blessings,Ruth B