Sunday, September 12, 2010

What is your emergency?


Labor Day, 2:42 AM: I was home alone with Miles when I was jolted awake by the sound of glass shattering.

Kris and B were out camping a few hours north of here. They were supposed to be home the previous day, and I had already endured hours of anxiety over them being overdue. I had tried to track them down to the campground where I thought they were staying, only to be told that they never checked in there. My evening was filled with calls to campgrounds, checking our online bank records to see where they bought gas, calling the police, and then long conversations with the county search & rescue (wherein I described our car and every stitch of clothing I thought they might be wearing, and also assured them that my husband was NOT the type of guy to kidnap his daughter and leave his wife and infant son).


This came on the heels of a few other unsettling events: A couple weeks ago, a friend of ours was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving behind his wife and two young kids. That prompted Kris and I to update our wills, which we had been meaning to do for a while since we hadn’t yet added Miles. And, Friday, just a day before the camping trip, the kids and I were in a car accident. It was very minor, but enough to leave me shaky and thinking of all the what ifs.

So, as much as I knew intellectually that Kris and B were probably fine, that they probably just had car trouble or something else totally benign, my gut told a different story. It said they got lost hiking, or they were in a devastating car accident and no one had called me yet, or they got caught in a flash flood and drowned. I couldn’t stop thinking of the what ifs. As the hours ticked off, my mind raced, and I felt floaty. Had it not been for Miles being with me, I might have collapsed in a heap of panic.

At around 11 PM, search and rescue called me to say they had found Kris and B at a remote campground, and they were safe but Kris couldn’t call me until the morning when they were back in cell range.

Let me pause here and say that Kris will have to tell the other half of the story, wherein he was suddenly awoken by a spotlight in his tent and police officers shouting his name….and then spent the whole rest of the night wide awake, wondering if he should wake B and drive home, and beating himself up for not communicating with me that he might change his plans and stay an extra night out if things were going well. I’d say I was angry with him, but honestly I am just too relieved that he is alive (and he is angry enough at himself for both of us).

So, assured they were safe, I drifted off to sleep around midnight.

2:43 AM: After the initial shatter, things were eerily silent. My first two thoughts: 1) Kris is home and he forgot his key …not realizing of course how absurd that is, to think he would break a window as opposed to, say, calling me or ringing the doorbell. 2) Ollie must have knocked something over. Though I couldn’t think of anything large and breakable lying around.

I grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand, jumped out of bed, ran down to the bottom of our stairs and immediately saw that our window’s shutter was splintered and askew, and glass was strewn across the floor.

I dialed 911 and ran back to the bedroom. Ollie followed me at full attention and sat watch at the bedroom door.

The next 12 minutes are kind of a blur. According to my phone log, that’s how long I was on the line with 911 before the police arrived. The operator tried to keep me talking, asking what kind of dog I have, the layout of my house, when had we moved in, did we know any unruly teenagers, etc. I remember grabbing a pair of jeans off the floor and trying to put them on with one hand while I gripped my cell phone in the other. I put them on backward.

At the moment the operator informed me the police had arrived, an officer pounded on my front door and rang the bell, and I jumped all over again. I was shaking and crying as I showed the very nice, very patient policeman the busted window and glass strewn everywhere. I noticed for the first time a rock on our couch. He helped me find some cardboard and taped it to the hole, then he searched the house and backyard, wrote his report and assured me I could call 911 again if I felt unsafe.

“We’re going to patrol your neighborhood tonight. If your dog hiccups and it scares you, call us back,” he said. And those were the kindest words, because I was THIS CLOSE to offering him a pillow and blanket and begging him to stay until sunrise.

He was also quite honest about the fact he didn’t expect to catch anyone, that he thought it was dumb kids or someone who was targeting the previous owners of our house for some reason (I didn’t bother to tell him about THIS…though I did mention that teenagers had lived here).

So he left, and Ollie and I camped out in the master bedroom. Amazingly, Miles was still asleep.

It was still a few hours until sunrise, and I called my friend Jes—my dear, dear friend who had already lost sleep that night worrying about Kris and B with me. Fortunately (?), she was already up dealing with her toddler who had wet the bed. And so she was clearheaded enough to listen to me cry and yell and curse for several minutes, and then she sat quietly on the phone with me for over an hour so that I wouldn’t have to be alone in the dark.

Throughout the ordeal, I also connected with two other women who mean the world to me, who offered support, wise words, and love from afar. And, a couple of our new neighbors stopped by to check on us and help entertain Miles while I cleaned up the glass. I mention them because I am so very, very grateful, but also because I want to remember this: that at a moment when I felt so utterly alone in an unfamiliar house and city, and under attack from all sides, I wasn’t really alone. 

I am reluctant to post this story on the blog. It still feels raw. I haven’t slept much the past week. When I close my eyes at night, I still hear the glass shatter. I’m researching home security systems and talking with insurance companies and scheduling repairs (for the car and window). Kris is still a bit sensitive about the camping fiasco, and I don’t want to subject him to criticism here.

But yet, I’m looking for the good that came out of a shitty experience (aside from the obvious, that everyone is safe and healthy), and I think it’s this: Community. A loving, supportive community that stretches its arms across state borders and folds in new members (like our neighbors) with ease.

I want to remember that the next time I’m home alone with two cranky toddlers and longing for my old community in a physical, geographical sense.

I have it. It’s right here. 

2 comments :

  1. How completely and utterly terrifying - on both counts! You need a relaxing weekend to get over your weekend now! I'm glad that in the end everything turned out okay. :)

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  2. That put my crappy week into perspective. Thank you. And I hope things start looking up and you can feel a bit more sturdy soon. :)

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