The Phone Rings in the Dead of Night


IMG_1971[1]Saturday morning, February 27, 2:31 AM

  • I am woken from my slumber by our home telephone announcing that Michael is calling us.  I quickly do the calculation in my head.  It’s 5:30 AM where he is. Michael is not an early riser.  Something must be wrong.  I race to the phone and no one is there.
  • My hubby and I call Michael back from each of our cell phones.  Voice mail. We text. No reply.
  • I start to hyperventilate. I picture an awful accident. How can I go back to sleep? The hubby pulls me into a tight hold in our bed.
  • I remember I have a “Find My iPhone” feature on my phone.  I’ve promised to only use it in emergencies.  I think this qualifies.  I locate the phone in his dorm.
  • I fall asleep around 4 AM with vague images of campus shooters in my brain.

Saturday morning, February 27, 6:38 AM

  • A text from Michael.  “Sorry my phone has been having trouble with voice control. It must have called you while I was asleep. I love you!”

Michael and I talk once I’m fully awake.  He tells me that, while he was sleeping, his phone randomly dialed our house phone, a girl from junior high, and a friend from our religious congregation.

“You know what’s weird, though, Mom?  At the same time I managed to call everyone, I was feeling overwhelming panic.  The last time I felt that was when Kat died.  So, I thought maybe Uncle L had passed away.”

What Michael is referring to is that he had a premonition a few years ago at nearly the same moment a close family friend died.  And, right now, the hubby’s beloved uncle is gravely ill.

“Uncle L is at home with family,” I say. “No one died.  Maybe you just felt my panic at receiving your call and not being able to reach you.”

“Maybe.”

We are both wrong.

Sunday morning, February 28, 1:33 AM

  • In my dream, there is a chime. Then another. I wake to see light shining from under Blake’s bedroom door.  Maybe that’s what woke me.  I wander in the dark to the restroom.  I have a vague memory of a chime in my dream.  Maybe it wasn’t a dream.
  • I check my phone.  There’s a text from Michael: “I found out that Collin X* died yesterday in a car crash.” “Do you want to talk?” I reply.  “Sure.  I’m just confused right now.”
  • Michael calls me from the hall outside his dorm room.  It’s just after 4:30 AM where he is.  Everyone is asleep. Michael has known Collin since kindergarten. Collin was killed shortly before Michael began sleep dialing last night. Michael is dazed and in shock.  Suddenly, he begins to sob.  He can’t believe this is happening, and he is so far away.  I tell him it’s okay to let it out.
  • Alone and sobbing in the hallway, Michael develops a gushing nose bleed. He takes me with him into the restroom and I wait silently for the bleeding to stop.  Finally, it does.
  • Michael talks until he is ready to try to sleep.  I promise to contact him when I know more facts.
  • I lay awake looking for news that can tell me if, indeed, this is true.  The facts I can find all point in a bad direction.

Sunday, February 28, 9:06 AM

  • Can you talk? Just heard some news.” reads the text. “Collin?” I reply, hoping the sender doesn’t know what I’m talking about.  If she doesn’t, then maybe it wasn’t him. “Yes,” is the reply.
  • Joanna is crying on the other end of the line. She’s in a social group with Collin’s mom. The worst is confirmed. Collin was riding home with friends when illegal street racers on the highway caused a horrific accident.  A big rig was sent careening into the car Collin was riding in.  The big rig driver and two teens, including Collin, died at the scene.
  • When I hang up the phone, it’s my turn to cry.  I’ve known this family for years.  I cannot begin to imagine their pain.

The hubby and I have an event to attend. In my numbness, I dress myself, try to go through the routine. I give Blake some instructions about what he is to accomplish today.  A couple things to catch him up in school.

“Great.” he moans. “Now I have nothing to look forward to.”

Blake doesn’t know about Collin yet. I don’t want to share this news on the way out the door, however, his words strike me.  I want to shout at him.  You think life is awful because you have a couple of assignments for school?! Collin won’t ever get to go to school again! 

I keep my mouth shut.  Blake is still struggling with depression, still not wanting help for that or for any mental health issue.  I’ll talk with him later.

Sunday, February 28, 10:40 AM

  • As we drive to our event, the hubby’s phone rings. It’s one of the dads from the group of kids who’ve grown up with Michael.  He’s known the hubby since childhood.  He and his wife want to visit with Collin’s family later today.  Will we go with them?  Of course we will.
  • We arrive at our event and a friend innocently sits down next to me.  “How are you?” he wonders. I burst into tears in front of him.

When we get home, we tell Blake about what has happened.  We offer to answer any questions he might have.  He doesn’t have any.  We ask how he is doing.  He says he is fine. We tell him Michael is having a tough time and would probably love to hear from him. He says he has nothing to say. We mention his comment about having nothing to look forward to and we talk about how there are blessings for us to find in each day that we are here.

“This doesn’t make me feel any better,” says Blake.

Sunday, February 28, 6:40 PM

  • We meet at Joanna’s house – the hubby and myself, Joanna, and the other couple. We walk over together, looking for emotional strength in our numbers. Will they even be wanting visitors. We will respect what they want. We each bear gifts. I’ve baked. It’s all I know how to do when there’s a loss – bake, cook.
  • As we approach the door, we slow down. Who will go first? Do we knock? Ring? Our friend’s wife is the brave one. She rings. The woman who answers the door motions for us to come in. Collin’s parents come up front to see who it is. Our connected lives instantly plug in. Their tears start to flow when they see us. We all hug and cry for what seems endless moments.
  • I wander into the kitchen and set down my baked good. As I make my way back to the front, I see Collin’s dad, our friend, and my hubby locked in one big man embrace – three manly men crying in each other’s arms.

When we return home, I ask Blake if he will please come walk the dogs with us. It’s been a long, difficult day and I’d like to walk together as a family, even for just this little bit. He argues with me about not wanting to come, but I ask him to please join us. As we walk, he stays about a half block ahead. I wonder with the hubby if Blake is struggling, angry, or simply detached. I never know lately. When we get arrive home, Blake is waiting to get into the house. I have the key.

“Thank you for coming, Blake,” I say.

“I hope it made you feel better,” he says and he walks inside and places his headphones into his ears. I try to hug him and he shakes me away, telling me he doesn’t want to be coddled. There’s really nothing for me to say. I’ve been reminded today that, no matter what is going on in their lives, we parents must cherish the moments we have with our kids. Yes, we will have struggles and difficult emotions, but each is a blessing in their own way. I try to remember that as my son demonstrates he wants nothing of this.

The hubby and I finally climb into bed. He holds me more tightly than normal. We hope for a night without phone calls or text messages. We think of Collin’s mom, trying to call and text Collin, much as we tried to call Michael when he accidentally dialed us in his sleep the other night. We imagine locating his phone and finding it, instead of in a dorm, at the scene of an accident. Nauseated and numb, I finally fall asleep.

* As always, all names have been changed for privacy.

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7 thoughts on “The Phone Rings in the Dead of Night

  1. I’m so very, very sorry you and your community are in the midst of this tragedy. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. We went through a very similar sorrow at the beginning of our son’s freshman year at college. I’ll never forget the ice that went through my veins when I received our son’s text from his college town, while we were at home at the dinner table: “Huston died in a car crash today.”

    It does help to be together with others in the community at this time, though nothing helps enough. I hope your son can come home for the funeral, if that’s what he wants.

    And it breaks my heart that you must already be so bowed down with concern for Blake. A blow like this piled on top of his illness is just too cruel.

    I’m thinking of you all and praying for you. XX -Amy

    1. Hi Amy. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. They mean so much. You know what’s sad, but doesn’t surprise me? That you, me, and Janet can all share similar stories. Ugh… You know what’s weird? I think this has me taking some of the focus off of Blake’s stuff. Maybe that’s good. Maybe I’ll give the kid more of a break. Hugs.

  2. Wow, I am so sorry for Collin’s family’s loss, for your loss and for Michael’s loss. Our daughter lost a very close friend the same way when she was about Michael’s age. Such a tough lesson for someone so young. So sad and senseless. You are so right. We need to cherish each moment we are here, no matter what the circumstances. Sending hugs………

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and your hugs. They are much appreciated. Ugh, that you, Amy and I can all have experienced something so similar. The world throws such yucky stuff at us sometimes. Somehow I wish it there were a way to always hold this lesson close – without having to have the actual experience of the lesson. Hugs right back.

  3. Angie, My heart goes out to your family, and Michael especially. And certainly Collin’s family. I hope that each person impacted finds peace in the future, and that memories of Collin help to warm everyone in the wake of this horrible tragedy.

  4. Pingback: “I’ll Try” | OCD In The Family

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