October 8, 2000
Leave Me a Message


The light was blinking on the answering machine when David and I woke from our Saturday afternoon nap yesterday. (A "nap" that spanned, incidentally, from shortly after lunch until nearly dinnertime. "Non-Drowsy Formula," my ass.)

The message was from MCI WorldCom, informing us that while we were enjoying our drooling coma, we'd received a collect call from ...

(I held my breath: one of the Tots? the Ex-Husband? Matt Lauer?)

... "Jaymi."

There was no message, of course: just her name. And no way to tell from the tone of her recorded voice whether this was a good call/a bad call/an "Oh god he's throwing my suitcases off the balcony" call. Worse still: there was no return phone number given. No way to know which number  --  out of the 43,897,621 "home" phone numbers I have currently listed under her name in my address book  --  I should use to try and reach her. In the past four months, Jaymi has moved ... how many times? Two? Three? Four? Eleven? She and Joel will be moving into their new apartment together in a couple of weeks, at which time I may finally be able to stop writing her contact  information down in pencil. But in the meantime: it's a crapshoot, trying to figure out where to reach her.

I picked up the phone and called what seemed to be the most logical number first: her cell phone. A girl may have 43,897,621 different "home" phone numbers ... but she's only got one cell phone. And it's usually in her purse. With any luck, she might actually be answering it.

But she wasn't. I got her twinkly/happy little voicemail message instead, requesting that I leave my name and number at the tone. I got your message and I'm trying to reach you, I said. Try calling us again when you get this. If the line is busy, page us. Hope everything is OK. Loveyou. Bye. And I hung up.

OK. What now?

I swapped out the phone cord for the modem cord and fired up AOL, to see if maybe by some chance she was lingering online. Nope. No Jaymi0000 on my Buddy List. (My son was online, however. Lately, TrojanBoy000 is always online. It might be time to have "The Talk" with him ... you know, the one about how you can go blind from too much chat room?)

There was, however, an abbreviated e-mail from Jaymi waiting in my cyber mailbox:

"Give me a call when you get this, I need to talk to you about something, I'm kinda upset about. Call me at Joels 253-555-9000, and if we are not here leave a message.


Oh god.

I fired off a hurried e-mail response -- I got your message and I'm trying to reach you. Try calling us again when you get this. If the line is busy, page us. Hope everything is OK. Loveyou. Mom -- and tossed it off into the cyber whereversphere. I would have loved to stay online and harrass my son a little bit -- follow him into the *~* fUlLtImE fLiRtZzZz*~* chat room, maybe, and ask him publicly how he's doing for socks and underwear  --  but I didn't want to tie up the phone line any longer than necessary.

So I signed off and called Joel's apartment. I knew, the way my luck was running, that there was virtually no chance of me reaching an actual human being ... and I was right. Answering machine again. (But at least I got to hear Joel's voice! Deep, warm, resonant, friendly. A nice, son-in-law type of voice. I might call back and listen to it again a few times, later today, just for fun.)  I left what was by now becoming my standard message -- I got your message and I'm trying to reach you. Try calling us again when you get this. If the line is busy, page us. Hope everything is OK. Loveyou. Bye -- and hung up.

This was beginning to suck, ever-so-slightly.

      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

On a whim, I decided to try calling the Ex-Husband's house in TicTac. I already knew that my son was home -- as evidenced by TrojanBoy000's omnipresence online. Maybe he could shed some light on the situation. I dialed the number.

Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy.

This was highly unusual. Busy signals are practically unknown in TicTac. Unlike our stoopid, antiquated one-phone-line "system," here in the Castle, the house in TicTac comes fully equipped with two working phone lines ... one for the computer, one for regular phone calls. (*I* should know. I'm the one who had the second phone line installed five years ago, when I was in the throes of quivering cyber junkiehood.) Plus practically everybody in that household has a cell phone now, forcryingoutloud. There was no reason for the line to be busy, unless there was a pizza box sitting on top of the phone again, or unless the cat had knocked the receiver off the hook.

(Or unless they were all bound and gagged and being held at gunpoint, outside in the garage.)

Frustrated -- but still not completely thwarted -- I signed back onto AOL, determined to toss a rock at TrojanBoy000 and get his attention.

SecraTerri:  Hello?
SecraTerri:  HELLO ?
SecraTerri:  YO! KYLE!!! I'm trying to call the house but the line is busy!
SecraTerri:  H E L L O ?!?!!
SecraTerri:  KYLE!!
SecraTerri:  I know you're there!!
SecraTerri:  I *see* you on my Buddy List!!
SecraTerri:  I'm gonna keep i.m.'ng you until you answer!
SecraTerri: I'm gonna give your screen name to GRANDMA!
SecraTerri:  H E L L O ?!?
SecraTerri:  H E L L O ?!?
SecraTerri:  H E L L O ?!?!?
SecraTerri:  Fine. I'm signing off now. If you get this message, HANG UP THE GODDAMNED PHONE so I can get through, OK?? {{{{{fluffy hugs}}}}}

Clearly TrojanBoy000 had fallen asleep at the keyboard.([Maybe he'd taken some of that "Non-Drowsy Formula" cold medicine.)  Or, more likely, he was sitting on the other side of the house in his bedroom, listening to Eminem and playing Final Fantasy 8, and he couldn't even hear me i.m.'ng him on the computer, three rooms away.

I considered my rapidly-dwindling options:

  • Calling the Ex-Husband at work. A good plan ... except that it meant I would have to engage in an actual phone conversation with him.
  • Calling one of my former neighbors in TicTac and asking them to go check on the kids for me. (Yeah. I could imagine how that would go over. Betty Next Door still thinks of me as "The Harlot Who Abandoned Her Family." At Christmastime it's all she can do to keep from hurling her binoculars at me.)
  • Calling Daughter #2 on HER cell phone!

I signed off once again ... swapped out the modem cord for the phone cord, for the bazillionth time ... and dialed Daughter #2's cell phone. The chances of her actually being home, of course, were slim -- she is a seventeen-year-old high school senior, it was Saturday afternoon, it's prime Boy-Hunting season -- but maybe she could at least shed some light on the Message From Jaymi/Busy Signal in TicTac situation. Reassure me, perhaps, that the house wasn't fully engulfed in flames.

Kacie's cell phone rang once ... twice ... three times ...

... and suddenly I was sitting there listening to tinny, echoey hard-core trance music from six-hundred miles away. Thirty or forty seconds' worth of tinny, echoey hard-core trance, in fact, although it felt like much, much more. (Music on an answering machine message is only slightly less annoying than adorable children's voices on an answering machine message, IMnot-soHO. And I wouldTELL my daughter so, if it weren't for the fact that I have been guilty of using both, in my lifetime.) Finally, though, her twinkly little voice broke through the "music," requesting that I leave a message at the tone.

[Hi Kacie this is Mom I'm trying to get hold of Jaymi please call me when you get this if the line is busy, page us hope everything is OK loveyou bye. ]

I had now officially reached the point of genuine concern. There was nothing left for me to do, really, but stay offline, keep the phone line open ... and wait. The logical part of me -- the wise, experienced part of me that knows that first pregnancies are filled with crises, real and perceived, and that most of the time it turns out to be gas -- that part of me said Everything is fine.

The Illogical/Worried/Long-Distance Grandmother-To-Be part of me said Joel is throwing her suitcases off the balcony ... I just know it.

When the phone rang, finally -- unexpectedly, in spite of my feverish expectation -- I jumped six feet off the computer chair, straight into the air. I answered it before the second ring and spat out a frenzied "HELLO??"

It was David's dad.


Not wanting to appear impolite -- and not wanting my hysteria to show, either: I'm still trying to get these people to like me -- I told Mr. Ю僱êrvØ¡ that David was still napping, and that I would have him return the call as soon as he woke up. Then I crashed the phone down in his ear and continued my vigil. Every couple of minutes or so, I tried the TicTac house again -- Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy. Busy -- slamming the phone down in frustration each time.

From the bedroom, David ventured a cautious, "Is everything OK?"

No. Everything is NOT OK. I am six hundred miles away from my children, and I can't seem to locate a single fudking one of them. The only thing that comforts me, really, is knowing that their father is usually less than six miles away from them and HE never knows where they are, either.

      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

The second collect call finally came through, half an hour later.

By this point I had already exhausted the full complement of long-distance maternal emotions -- concern, frustration, fear, impotent fury, resignation -- and I was so worn-out that I was pretty much prepared for anything.

Jaymi immediately assured me that she was fine ... the baby was fine ... Joel was fine. Her suitcases were fine. Everything was fine.

"Except?" I asked.

Except that she had received a cryptic voicemail message on Friday from her new obstetrician, saying that there was a "problem" with the test results from Jaymi's first prenatal examination, a few days earlier.

"What sort of problem?" I asked carefully, and Jaymi said that was the point -- she didn't know. All the doctor said, in her message, was she "didn't want to discuss it by phone," and that her office would be mailing something to Jaymi later this week.

The fear in my daughter's voice was unmistakeable. "I'm sorry to bother you with this," she said, "but I'm really upset." My heart split into about a bazillion pieces at that moment. I reassured her that 1.) She wasn't "bothering" me, and 2.) No, she wasn't wrong: this was a shitty thing for her obstetrician to do (and perhaps she should give me the o.b.'s office number and *I* will leave her a goddamn voicemail message, as soon as we hang up) and, 3.) I'm sure that it's nothing serious. A billing question, maybe. Or a touch of the anemia that plagued me throughout all three of my pregnancies. 

"Maybe you'll have to start taking extra iron," I said. "It turns your poop black, but you don't tire as easily."

David, who had wandered out to the kitchen by this point to monitor my end of the conversation, concurred. "If it was something important, they would have called her back into the office immediately," he said. I relayed this to Jaymi. She seemed to be slightly comforted. By the time we hung up, half an hour later, she was audibly calmer.

"Call me any time about anything," I said. To me it felt like a needless reminder ... but maybe she needed to hear the words, just then, as much as I needed to say them. I'm not right there with her, to make us both a cup of herbal tea and rub her feet and hug her and reassure her that everything is going to be OK. The sad but unchangeable fact of the matter is that we are going to have to get through this pregnancy via cumbersome and occasionally unreliable methods of communication. Like voicemail. And e-mail. And this website.

So Jaymi? If you're reading this today? Call me ANY TIME about ANYTHING. I mean it. And if I'm not home? Leave me a message.

And a phone number.

one year ago: temporary amputation
two years ago: virtuosity

throw a rock