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The calls that interrupt


Whether best of times or worst of times, I am always astonished how our memory can hold an exact moment, down to the slightest detail, and keep replaying it for reference, even when you'd think you'd prefer to forget.

First, there was those three missed calls noted on my phone's lock screen on Saturday morning. By their very existence I knew that something wasn't right. With an elderly parent with balance and mobility issues, no random call from medical staff can be good. So with intent and immediacy there I was, calling my mother's doctor while standing in the shampoo aisle at Wal-Mart.

Alas, it was not the hair care section that had all those cool products to enhance hair. It was not even the women's shampoo section with the heady fragrances, organic ingredients and designer packaging. This was a phone call to clarify my mother's health while standing in the men's shampoo section, trying to remain positive next to the eleven different shades of grey and navy blue bottles that were with or without conditioner. And there I was, already running those familiar next steps in my mind: emergency room, admittance, surgery, recovery, rehab and hopefully home. It turned out she needed them all.

With an elderly parent there is always an underlying hum, a feeling of high alert that cannot be erased from the day to day. But given the pandemic and its victims, racial injustice and its victims and the unknown days that stretch out in front of us, Mom's condition is different and its issues are carefully navigated by phone, given the skill and compassion of dozens of healthcare workers who I know only by name.

Funny, this all started off as just another morning in which I thought the toughest job was going to navigate the "one direction" aisles and find paper towels and peanut butter. Instead, I had to mentally step back into a routine with which I am unfortunately familiar so as to insure essential decisions are made for my mother's safety.

I don't know what is tougher to accept: getting and making those calls (and their residual results and memories) or realizing that there is a "go-to" process that kicks in instantly for incidents like these. I don't regret or resent, but sometimes I'm sad. I wish it could be a little easier, say like picking out the right bottle of shampoo.

A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing fundamentals as well as advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and SUNY Old Westbury.