Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Smalltown Cops

My parents, who live in an itty-bitty town in Indiana, have been visiting the itty-bitty town in Texas where they grew up for about the past month. My beloved grandmother (Abuelita) came down with pneumonia, on top of already having Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, so she went into the hospital and they drove down to visit just in case this was...you know...the end.

As it turns out, it wasn't the end. Abuelita is doing okay in a rehabilitation center. She's not truly expected to rehabilitate, given that she is nearly 95 years old and has Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. My Aunt B has been taking care of her for six or seven years, but the time has finally come for her to go into a nursing home - not an easy decision for a Latino family, believe me.

Once everything was sorted out, my parents were ready to come home...until, as though she hadn't had enough struggles as of late, Aunt B's husband passed away. My parents extended their stay an extra week to stay for the funeral. My mom called to update me and sounded like she'd come down with one of her twice-a-year cases of bronchitis, which worried me.

She sounded even worse when she finally called last Friday to say she and my dad were finally preparing to drive home. Her voice was completely shot. She sounded like she had swallowed shards of glass. I told her to take care and call me when she got home.

But she didn't call Sunday, which is about when they should have gotten to Indiana. My oldest sister, who says she can't track the comings and goings of our parents since they "travel like refugees, coming and going in the middle of the night," hadn't heard from her either. She tried to call but the line was busy, so either Mom was on the internet or on the phone.

Then, on Monday night, my Aunt W left me a message to ask if I'd heard from my mom - she'd been trying to call all day and the line was busy. That's weird, I thought. I dialed home at 11:30 p.m. California time (1:30 a.m. Indiana time) and the line was busy.

Let me just be up front: I'm one of those "worst-case scenario" people. Whenever someone is late, I always imagine they've been hit by a bus or kidnapped by gypsies or eaten by their cats. So I got a little panicky realizing that my parent's phone line had been busy non-stop since Sunday. I calmed myself down, forced myself to go to sleep, and decided to call first thing in the morning.

When I woke up, I grabbed my cell phone and called home, certain that my mom would answer groggily (since, like me, she's not a morning person and calling before noon would definitely find her asleep.) Busy signal. Now I was extra panicky.

I called my oldest sister, who wasn't home. I called my middle sister and got her machine. I left a message, since she always screens calls (she has seven kids - she homeschools four of them, and breastfeeds the infant. Truly a wonderwoman.) "Uh, hi, it's your sister, just checking to see if you've heard from Mom 'cause her line is busy and Aunt W called to check in..." She picked up. "Hey sis, how weird is that? Because before you called on Friday to say Mom and Dad were driving home, I called the house to see if they had come home without letting me know, and the line was busy."

I started hyperventilating. The thing about living in Los Angeles, as I explained to FMC, is that you automatically assume that terrible things have befallen people because you live in Los Angeles, where terrible things constantly befall people, like freeway shootings or apartment fires or Jessica Simpson sightings. I knew something was wrong.

I didn't vocalize everything going through my head, but my sister sensed my freaked-outedness. A woman with seven children knows how to take charge. "I'm packing up the kids and leaving here in 30 minutes to go to the house. If I don't call you back by two o'clock, call me," she said. She took my cell number and we hung up.

As soon as we got off the phone, my mind started racing. Why was the phone busy since Friday? How could that be with no one in the house? What if there were burglars in the house and they cut the phone line and killed my parents and the dog and when my sister gets there, they kill her too? I should call the police. No, I'm being irrational. Oh my God, if something happens to my sister, my family is going to blame me. I should call the police. No, I'm being irrational. Breathe. Breathe.

Thirty minutes later, my phone rang. "Hey, it's me," said my middle sister. "I just realized how crazy it is to pack up all my kids and drive an hour and a half to the house, so I called the police to go check on Mom and Dad. Guess what? They're home. Their phone is broken, so that's why they haven't called."

Fortunately, I was too relieved to be pissed off. I called the rest of the family to pass along the update while FMC laughed in the background at the fact that the local cops went to my parent's house to check on them for their hysterical daughters. Given the size of the town, he was right that if two cops went to the house, half the police force was out in service of the City Elf clan. They're not LAPD, but I gotta say, I love me some smalltown cops.

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