Phone Call

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Every phone call seems like a thousand needles pricking inside my body, every minute. 

I don't know when this started but I became paranoid about death and the inevitability of it when my grandfather was escorted to the ICU with code blue a few years ago. He was sitting with us and chatting and the next minute he collapsed, his vitals dimming and the staff rushed him to the ICU infront of our eyes. It's an experience that takes a lot out of you, and I can't say I haven't been lucky to see him get out of it. 

He fought through it and many other similar dips and episodes. Each of these had one thing in common, the intimation was a phone call. That's the only thing my grandfather managed to learn using his cell phone despite our collective efforts. He has called us in the dead of the night, only for us to learn his glucose level is dipping and he needed to be fed something. 

On a good day, he could read an SMS and delete but he was very comfortable with phone calls. So much so, he would summon us by calling on our respective phone. I've had a few scares during dinners and other outings when I'd receive a call from him, despite my family being there, only to learn he dialled accidentally while trying to call someone else. 

Over the last few years, I stopped taking phone calls from most people. I think I was saturated after having spent my school and two colleges talking on the phone, and living through this hell didn't help. I stopped taking calls on the landline as well, the only mode of communication that works inside our residence. This was far more shocking to process because as a kid I was massively fond of reading our phone book, or any phone book in my access just about every minute of the day. I remember when I was allowed to use the landline to answer calls and protocols were set about how to greet people and how to wish them and handle calls. I was enthusiastic and I remember how eagerly I would wait for the phone to ring so I could perform all that I had learned. It was a responsibility my family bestowed on me, and as a first-born I knew I had to ace it. 

Lately, I haven't had the strength to pull through and take the news of any kind and face reality. I needed my time to process things, despite my stoic sense of being. Everyone at home raves about how nothing affects me and I can live through the phone ring all my life, but nobody knows the intensity of horror I live through each time the phone rings. 

The past week has been my version of personal hell. Every phone call meant information about something going wrong, whether it was directly from my parents or the hospital. We have been either informed as a family unit or as an individual about each time something went wrong; a dip, another dip, yet another dip. Yesterday, I was informed about putting him on ventilatory support through a call, when I was home alone and everyone else was at the hospital. My heart sank when I was told that they had to revive him using CPR and whatever little my sibling could convey between her sobs. If there was no phone, I wouldn't live with the constant anxiety of what next. I managed to cry, howl infact, first time in two days. It sunk in how I may never get a call about my grandfather's health and how he may never come home. 

There has been that sense of unrest, that anxiety for as long as I remember gaining consciousness, and each time I hear someone losing someone they love immensely but when push comes to shove is when you realize how deep the scars run and how some wounds are more septic than the other. 

Between the news update about his health, there have been non-stop phone calls between concerned few extended family members that my parents are gracefully handling. Left to my device, I'd not answer even one but I'm grateful to them for setting examples like these where they have outperformed their perseverance, so far. It's another topic for another day to discuss how and what happens when you see a family crumble under the weight of societal obligations and the lack thereof, and dealing with grief. That's a can of worms I don't want to go near today when I'm a fucking wreck. 

The order of phone calls has been peculiar-

Receive information first hand- convey to the family members by a phone call- convey to the rest of the family members after the members of the house have been informed- repeat. 

Despite this disco routine for nearly a month now, none of this has normalized, none of this is easy. Each time the fucking phone rings, I can hear the deep breathing my dad has to do to calm himself, I can feel my mom palpitating and my sister and I taking turns to console one another whenever the other breaks down. Every phone call so far has been a letdown, snatching hope until we are down to none. For the last few mornings, every phone call has brought a new horror story. The day starts on a note, a fresh page and then it's filled with the ringing of doom. 

We were all huddled in the car parking this evening as the waiting area at the ICU has been cordoned off due to Covid. We had each other's support, and yet, my grandfather wasn't around. 

All we had were his sinking updates, one phone call at a time. 

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