Regret – Hitting Ignore

Regret – Hitting Ignore

Listening to the soundtrack from the Broadway Musical Next to Normal probably wasn’t the smartest move ever.  If you haven’t seen the show it’s rather emotionally draining.  Don’t get me wrong though, it’s positively amazing and one of the best shows I have seen since moving to NYC in 2007.  If you aren’t aware, the musical follows a woman (a mother and wife) who fights a mental disorder.  It addresses bipolar disorder, death of loved ones, abuse of drugs, suicide, depression and the basic confusion in life and pain.

Every time I listen to the soundtrack my heart yearns for my phone to ring.  Not just for anyone though, it makes me yearn to hear my grandmother’s voice.  People come and go from our lives.  It’s a fact of life, but some deaths leave lasting scars in our souls more than others. For me, the death of my grandmother still makes me ache inside when it comes to mind.

My family moved away from my grandma and grandpa when I was just five years old.  None-the-less she played a huge part in my life, but like many, I took her for granted.  My grandma wasn’t well in her later years.  Physically she was fine, but mentally she had her demons.  That last year of her life her calls became harder and harder to sit through.  At least that’s how it felt at the time.  Now I think I was just self-centered.

My grandmother, while surrounded by loved ones in California where she lived until she passed away, was lonely.  When I close my eyes I picture her and it honestly breaks my heart.

What I see is her sitting alone in my aunts family room on the corner of the couch.  She has the phone pulled up to her side.  Sitting there she picks it up.  She calls my mom who may or may not answer.  When she either doesn’t get an answer or finishes that call she hangs the phone up.  She takes a long deep breath, typically through her nose, exhales and picks the phone up again.  She dials my sister.  Once again she will either get an answering machine and leave a message or have a chance to talk to my sister if she was available.  When that call was over she would hang up the phone.  She would sit there with the phone next to her, take a deep breath, exhale and pick the phone back up.  She would then call me.  This process would repeat until she attempted to call all of her children and grandchildren who did not, at the time, live in Los Angeles, CA.

The topic of conversation on these calls was anything and nothing.  You see, she never had much of a reason for calling other than hearing our voices.  Often times it was like pulling teeth to get her to talk.  Grandma would sit in silence and just be happy to be on the phone.  I assume that you can imagine at times these calls could get slightly easy to ignore here and there.  Sadly we all did ignore them at times.  That would allow us to build up topics to talk about or just to get to the things we felt were more pertinent than catching that specific daily call.  You always knew she would call back tomorrow…

Until she didn’t.

The day before I got the call that my grandmother died I hit ignore when she attempted to reach me.  I remember it so clearly.  I was getting ready to go to happy hour and the phone rang.  I had no time to get ready and still had to finish getting dressed.  For a brief second I considered my options:

  • I could answer the phone, but delay myself 15 – 20 additional minutes when I was already late, or
  • I could hit ignore and speak to her tomorrow or the day after that.

As I said, I hit ignore.  The next day will forever be a painful day in my memory.

I took the day off work because I was applying for a new apartment. I had to drop of applications and deposits at the leasing office and I figured since I didn’t know how long that would take I would just take a personal day.  After taking care of the application process I went home to the apartment I wanted to move out of.  I turned the TV on, I was obsessed with The View at the time, and let the women play in the background.  From there I went to take a quick shower.

After the quick shower I wrapped myself in a towel and sat on the couch to watch the rest of The View.  For whatever reason, I randomly picked up my phone, which was sitting on the arm of the oversized red couch I had at the time.  On the screen I saw that I had missed three calls, all from my mother, and also had two text messages from my mother that read, “call me ASAP, it’s an emergency.”

I have to admit I can’t even write this without tears building up in my eyes.

I sat there in my towel on the red couch with The View playing in front of me, but muted, and called my mother right that second.  Life felt like it stopped right when she opened her mouth.  My grandma had choked on her lunch and suffocated.

I spent months seeing her in my dreams struggling to breathe and even more months blaming myself for her possibly having died knowing I ignored her call the night before.  I knew it was not the case at all, but a part of me felt like she died lonely and partially because of me.

Now, years later, I know she didn’t think twice about my ignoring her call, but I will forever regret not taking it.  Hitting ignore when a loved one calls is no longer an option for me.  You never know when the call won’t be made again.

Damn you Next to Normal! These songs (particularly this mashup, while not the best singers in the world, is so fitting for the emotions I have when I think of my grandmother).