Thursday June 18, 1998 – Mom’s ‘Relaxing’ Overnight Visit

I left the coffee pot ready for Mom to turn on. As I left for Madison at 6:15, I opened the front door slightly and propped open the door to the porch. I knew that would lead the cats out for some early morning bird watching and they wouldn't bother Mom. I had heard Mom's early trip to the bathroom, but I didn't know if she had shut the bedroom door when she returned. If she didn't the cats would go up there and do their early morning cat thing…annoying if you're not used to it…and even sometimes if you are.

This story starts about 9:30 when I first tried to call Mom to let her know where the coffee cups were, and to find out if she needed anything. There was no answer. No problem. I thought she may be still sleeping, or just upstairs (I had unhooked the phone up there last night too). I tried several more times over the next few hours, and when 12:30 came and I had called about 10-15 times, things just didn't feel right and I had to do something.

I called Augie, my boss and explained my concern. I said that I needed to go home and check things out. Mom could have gone for a walk and inadvertently locked herself out. The phone line seemed fine since I was getting the answering machine after three rings. She could just be ignoring the phone but I had reached the answering machine and asked her to pick up but no one did. When all the immediate answers didn't seem to fit, I began to entertain paranoia. The cats could have gotten under her feet and caused her to fall down the stairs… she could have had a stroke, or fallen and broken something that prevented her from getting to the phone. Okay, now I am very worried.

I was on my way out of Madison driving 20 mph over the speed limit with the hazard lights flashing. I fumbled with my car phone, got information, and realized with horror that I had no idea what our neighbor's Sean and Celeste's last name was, and asked for the Neverman's number. I called 14yr old Loren and explained my problem. Could she just go next door and see if there is anyone moving around or can she hear anything? I explained that the back doorbell is not working and the front porch screen door was locked, but I asked her to look in the windows and listen for any noise etc. When I called her back she said it looked pretty dark and she couldn't hear anything. Oh God…I told Loren not to be alarmed but I was going to call the police and ask the police to go check it out.

By now I was just passing the Marshall exit, still more than 22 miles away, and as I gave the police dispatcher my information I did my best to stay calm. It may just be something easily explained but I can't take that chance. She assured me that she would send someone over to check and she took my car phone number. When I told her that I was speeding and would get there as soon as possible, she encouraged me to drive safely and not get hurt myself. Okay…my heart was beating so hard I could hear it. I just stepped on the gas and stared straight ahead.

Trying not to latch on to any of the various scenarios that zoomed through my head. I remembered our dinner last night…how Mom looked…how she talked…and how sometimes I stopped listening.

By the time I got to the turnoff at Hwy 26, I was in tears. The police had not called me back and after the past 20 minutes, and I could only imagine the worst. I was sure that they just weren't calling back because something bad had happened and they didn't want me to freak out while I was driving… better to wait until I got home etc. I was afraid to call them. Whatever was happening was beyond my control at this point, but I prayed and I bargained. Now I was on the two lane county road that would take me the last six miles into Watertown and of course someone was actually driving at exactly the speed limit. Why must I be stuck in a slow parade right now?!!

All I could think of was how Dad had seemed fine too…just three days before he fell over and died. Why couldn't I believe that it could happen to Mom?

By the time I careened around the corner and pulled into the driveway my heart was pounding outside my skin. There were two police cars out front and two officers were either coming down the steps or going up…I couldn't tell. As I jumped from the car, they quickly assured me that my mother was all right. She had answered them and she was fine. I ran to the back door and let myself in.

There was Mom walking around crying and wondering what she had done wrong. The police had come to the door and called out "Margaret Snell, are you in there?" She was terrified to look outside and see two police cars and hear them calling her by name. How did they know her name? What could they want? What had she done? Apparently they had arrived just before I did and Mom had gone out to the porch and confirmed to them that she was fine. She was thoroughly confused by their concern and by why they had come. Later she told me, "I was just doing what you told me to do. Relaxing and making myself at home.”

This story sounds funny now but I was unable to breathe for several minutes. I was crying as I asked her why she didn't answer the phone when I was calling so frequently and getting no answer. "I knew you were selling the house and I didn't know how to answer their questions.” She had taken one message this morning from someone who had read the ad, but felt that she couldn't answer the questions that people had about the house, so she would just let the calls go to the answering machine. If she heard any talking on the recorder, she did not hear the message…only presumed that people were calling about the house and leaving their phone numbers. She didn't hear me leaving the increasingly frantic phone messages on the machine.

Mom kept crying and apologizing for making me worry. I didn't care. I was just so grateful that she was alive and well. We hugged and cried and then decided that since neither of us could calm down, we may as well go do the shopping that she had mentioned. We laughed through our tears and went out to the car.

We stopped first at a garage sale. Mom stayed in the car because there are storm clouds coming and I think she was still shook up. So am I, but I need to move around. I found some pill boxes for Mom and a few little things for the new house. Then on to WalMart where we did Mom's shopping, in between me stopping periodically in the aisles to hug her and tell her that I was so happy that she was alive.

There was a storm brewing so we started to head home. I made a stop at Mullins for ice cream and pecans. Mom waited in the car since it had started raining. Finally back at home, we had a nice ice cream social sitting at the kitchen table. We discussed what had happened and were finally able to laugh about it. We watched the Rosie O'Donnell show at 4pm. That was nice. Mom and I laughed and had a nice time. It is very hot and humid outside and there is a big storm heading this way.

Two different people came to see the house tonight. One couple was up from Florida and needed a place in the next three weeks. I told them that it was a do-able thing if necessary. Another lady and her young son came over after she called. They live on Western Ave but have no yard and they are looking at moving to somewhere nearby with a yard and less traffic. She was kind of odd but nice. Why come out in a storm to look at a house? Mom and I were having a "picnic" supper. I had gone to the Farmer's Market on Wednesday and had lots of fresh veggies and strawberries. I sliced fresh tomatoes, warmed bread from Great Harvest, cooked a bowl of sweet pea pods, cleaned strawberries and put them around a bowl of yogurt. (something that Mom and BJ have in common….they don't eat yogurt) She ate everything else and had a beer. I had one too…what a day.

We watched sitcoms and visited, then packed up her stuff, including a few things that I had found for her at the garage sale. She reminded me that there were lights blinking on my answering machine. "You might have some calls for the house.”
"No Mom. All those calls are probably me calling you.” We listened to the various messages that I had left. Mom cried again that she had caused me so much worry. It's okay Mom, but you do realize that now that I know that you are fine and my heart has resumed it's regular rhythm, there will be stories to tell. She knew. Goodnight Mom. I'm so glad that you are alive.

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