June 15, 2014

The Call


I received the message mid-flight, somewhere between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. “There has been a change in Dad’s condition and you need to come home.” My younger sister can be a bit dramatic, but the quiver in Andrea’s voice let me know this was serious. An icy pit formed in my stomach, I didn’t want to return the call.

The small twinjet descended into a warzone that was LAX. Earlier that morning a man sporting a rifle had gone on a shooting spree, killing one TSA agent and injuring seven by-standers before being apprehended by police. As a result Terminals 1, 2, and 3 were on lock down. I arrived in Terminal 3.

En route to Miami to host a work conference, a career milestone, I had flown from Santa Barbara to LA to grab a flight to Miami. The flight to Miami had been delayed due to the shooting, and in some weird way a blessing to me.  “Home” was near Los Angeles.

I walked away from United Airlines Flight 5324, not really knowing where I was going, watching the scene as if floating above myself. This is not happening. Keep moving forward. Pressure built between my ears, a loud roar auditable only to me. My vision blurred, but I kept moving forward.

I hit the call back button on the message as I walked forward. “It's not good,” said a familiar female voice.  “The doctors are sending your father home to hospice care and the family thinks you should not go to Miami. You need to be here.“ Your father? The family? Then it struck me who had answered the phone and was speaking. “Is this Mom?”

“Yes,” the voice on the other end replied, and then rambled on. But I had stopped listening. What right did this woman have answering my sister’s phone and laying this information about my father on me like this? Who the fuck did she think she was? She lost all rights to talk about family when she left my father for a woman 20 years ago.

“I don’t have time for this,” I snapped, interrupting her mid ramble. “I need to figure out how to get out of here.” I hung up as a wave of heat overtook me, sending my mind spinning. I stumbled to the other end of the terminal hall, passing stranded passengers lined along the sterile airport corridor charging their iPhones, passing the closed Starbucks and locked Hudson News Newsstand – the last signs of civilization. Dead End.

I turned in place not knowing what direction to take next, disoriented like a lost child. The absurdity of the entire situation struck me, and I held back a hysterical laugh.

How was I going to get out of here?