The habit of worrying dies hard

After Lily started having big seizures again (read the story here), I relied more heavily on calling my parents to get a ride home from my high school. (I often stayed late to get help at the math lab – run by one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, where students helped each other or got help from her, as needed.) At some point, I called, and nobody answered the phone. At least once, this coincided with Lily having a seizure, which I learned after successfully getting through on a second or third attempt. This in turn meant that my ride home would be delayed by a little bit, until she was stable enough to be bundled into the car.

This pattern persisted for years – if nobody answered the land line, I became worried. If I got a phone call about five minutes before I was expected to call, it usually meant they weren’t home, sometimes because they were at the hospital or dealing with a situation at home and anticipated not being able to pick up when I called. (Funny how it feels like that happened a lot, when it didn’t.) Also, because of those “warning”/anticipatory phone calls, I’m often upset when I hear the phone ring during off hours, especially if I see my parents’ number on the caller ID. (This has been attenuated by my father excitedly calling with tech news and such, almost always while I’m in the middle of something at work.)

Regardless, to this day, when my parents don’t answer the phone I call, I will usually get nervous very quickly, and call another phone. It’s one reason that we all have cellphones. I suspect it’s the reason I took it hard when an ex-boyfriend went away for weekend-long live action roleplaying games and failed to tell/remind me; I had no opposition to the LARP and actually found his engagement with it endearing, but to unexpectedly lose phone access was…unnerving. I’ve made sure to try to communicate this to men I’ve dated since then, and have worked on being less pessimistic when friends, coworkers, family, etc. aren’t immediately responsive to “getting in touch” communications.

I guess, to me, this is what feels the most distinctive about growing up with Lily: we have really normal lives and dynamics and feelings and all that, but there subtle differences in how we experience them. Plenty of my friends dislike phones, and share my aversion to dialing new numbers for the first time, but the only other person I know to fear the phone ringing was another sibling. I expect this is similar for people with other “expected unexpected events” – anyone who has a friend or loved one with an unpredictable illness/longterm condition may also grow to dislike the phone as the source of bad news.


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