My phone rang while I was on the way to Rock Steady Boxing this week. I was doubly surprised – my phone almost never rings these days, as most people I communicate with prefer the convenience of email, text messages, and FaceTwitagram. In addition, the caller ID showed that it was my wife Amy calling. Not only does she almost never call, she rarely answers phone calls. It’s the downside of our always-on, instantly connected lives. Too much connection can be overwhelming, distracting, and irritating.
I answered immediately. If Amy goes to the effort of making a phone call instead of sending a text, there is surely a reason. I was driving, so (in rigorous adherence to local law and good sense), I answered the call hands-free.
“Hi honey – how are you?” I said.
“Are you at lunch? Or are you driving?”
“I’m on my way to meet Jim for lunch,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I think we may have a problem…”
Nothing good ever follows such a statement. Amy proceeded to tell me that she had just received a deeply troubling phone call. The details of the call are not relevant (and may eventually be a part of a legal action) so I won’t share them, but the upshot was that there was a chance that our fragile financial and healthcare support infrastructure (disability insurance, healthcare insurance, and life insurance) was about to come tumbling down like a house of cards.
It’s not as bad as we originally thought, but neither of us had any idea that the event that triggered all this consternation was even possible. If the situation truly goes south, we will be in real trouble. We have planned for contingencies, but you can’t plan for everything.
We’re no different than millions of people around the country. At this very moment there are people living with Parkinson’s and other chronic diseases that are making the choice to either buy food or to buy medication; to pay for rent or to pay health insurance premiums; to pay for transportation to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store or to have life-changing surgery. Many of those people planned for contingencies also, but didn’t expect to receive the phone call that changed everything.
We’ll be fine. Our lives are vastly different than we thought they would be at one time, but some things have not changed. We still have each other. We still have wonderful kids and a supportive extended family. And we still have health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance. Any of those things could change with a single phone call, though, in the blink of an eye.
I received another phone call recently. My son Andrew calls occasionally, so I was not surprised to see his name pop up on caller ID on a Saturday. I answered immediately.
“Hi son! How are you this morning? How’s life in paradise?”
“I’m not sure what’s going on. I just got a really scary text message,” Andrew answered, out of breath. “It says there are inbound missiles, and this is not a drill. I’m headed to a shelter.”
Andrew lives in Hawaii. My blood froze as he told me, “I called to tell you that I love you, and to say good bye.”
I never want to receive a phone call like that again. This situation, too, is not as bad as it could have been, and I’ll remember forever that, thinking he was about to die, my son called to tell me that he loved us. I’m angry that he had to go through that pain, though, and deeply aware that everything can change with a single phone call, in the blink of an eye.