Anxiety Episode #3: Something terrible must have happened to Eric (my brother).

(The following post was adapted from a journal entry written in 2006, around Thanksgiving. At the time, I was in graduate school in Vermont, but home visiting at my parents’ house. My grandmother lived with my parents then. It should be noted that although she answered the phone from time to time during those years, her hearing was pretty terrible. The story below is a great example of the unfolding events that can happen when I have far too much time on my hands with nothing else to do but let my thoughts run wild.)

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Over Thanksgiving break, I was home for nearly two weeks. During this time, I spent the days reading, walking, visiting with Gram, watching Hallmark Channel movies, and taking care of my nephews. One afternoon, I returned home from a walk to find my grandma sitting at the dining room table doing crossword puzzles. She informed me that while I was out walking, someone had called from Bloomsburg, my brother’s college, and was looking to speak with my mother. I was fine with all of this until she added—in a concerned voice—“I hope Eric’s okay.”

I asked Gram why she said that—was there something the guy had mentioned on the phone that made her worry? She told me that she couldn’t hear clearly on the phone what the man was saying, and that it sounded like he said he lived with Eric. And again she added that she hoped my brother was all right. She had written the guy’s name and phone number down on paper so my mom could call him back. I glanced at it, but didn’t recognize the name.

I shrugged and walked to my room. I was going to leave it at that. But then I thought: Well, what if something did happen to Eric? What if he had an accident of some sort and this man, who maybe lives with Eric, was calling to tell us?

Ever the problem solver, I called Eric. His phone rang and then went to voicemail. No luck there. Next, I called my mom. Naturally, her phone went right to voicemail, as it always does. I’m not sure I know why she even chooses to keep her phone in service these days.

I pondered some more. I figured that if the man was calling from Bloomsburg, maybe he was from financial aid, alerting my parents to the fact that they owed money on his tuition or something. That must be it. Looking for some kind of validation, I got my computer and went to the school’s website. I checked out the teacher/staff directory, and I searched through the names. None matched the name my grandmother had written down.

After a little more back and forth in my mind, I decided to take it upon myself to call the guy back. Even though I knew he wanted to speak to my mother. Who does this kind of thing? Seriously?

Of course, he didn’t answer. I left no message. Obviously. What would I say? Ummm…I’m so and so’s sister. You don’t know me, but I heard you called my house looking to speak with my mom about Eric. If he’s doing fine and the nature of your call is benign, great. No need to call back. I’ll still relay your message. But on the off chance that you have some information about my brother being banged up in a hospital somewhere fighting for his life, could you just call back immediately and let me know so I can somehow be of service? Here’s my cell number. Thanks!

I could tell from the man’s voicemail that it was indeed a cell phone, and not an administrative office phone. Uh-oh. Maybe something really was wrong. I called my dad. He answered. Probably from up in his tree stand in the woods, where he’d been out hunting. I asked him if he’d heard from Eric recently. He hadn’t. He wanted to know why. I began to tell him about the past half hour, and he told me not to worry. He sounded annoyed. He thought the guy might be Eric’s landlord.

I felt only slightly releved after speaking to my father. I was so invested in this mystery caller by this point, I felt I couldn’t stop, couldn’t rest until I knew for sure that Eric was okay.

I thought some more about how I could get to the bottom of this. I tried my mom again. No answer. I looked through my phone and realized I hadn’t used my best lifeline yet—Bianca, Eric’s girlfriend at the time. So, I called her next, and thankfully she answered. I asked her when she last spoke to Eric. She told me it had been over an hour, but she thought he was taking a nap. He hadn’t been feeling well. I asked her if she recognized the man’s name. Was he a roommate, a neighbor? She didn’t know the name. But she told me if she heard from Eric, she’d call, or have him call me.

Finally, I gave up at detecting, and decided to wait it out. Enough was enough. About an hour later, my mom called me, wanting to know what the hell was going on. I explained everything, and she got angry with me. She told me that all of my “investigating” was really none of my business, and that I needed to learn to let things go.

I could only counter with, “Well then why did grandma have to keep saying ‘I hope Eric’s okay?

My mom replied in an exasperated voice, “Because she can’t hear a damn thing on the phone, so what else is she going to say?!”

To which I shamefully replied, “So, well, who’s the guy?” As if I had a right to know at this point.

My dad had been right. The mystery call was Eric’s landlord calling to say simply that he’d received a rent check. Another hour later, I got a text from my brother, who I’m sure had heard from a variety of sources about all of the excitement. It simply read: It was my landlord. Jackass.

What? Can’t an older sister worry about her baby brother?

I think maybe I might have missed my calling. Perhaps I should inquire with local private investigative firms to see if any are hiring. What do you think? 

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