How One Question Made Me Question Everything
An emergency contact is your go-to person. The person who is always there for you. The one you can call on a moment’s notice, no matter the time of day, no matter the need. The one who comes through every time, without fail. This is the person who hears your cry before the tears fall. The person you trust with your life and the lives of those you hold dear to you.
Who is the first person that comes to mind when you think about your emergency contact?
What happens when you lose that person, or worse, you don’t have one in the first place?
I’ll tell you. It sucks. It can be lonely, and it hurts like a bitch.
This past weekend challenged my emergency contacts in a big way.
Last night, while at the dance club, I took a break to grab a drink and noticed I missed seven calls from my son. That’s never a good sign. His voicemail was upbeat as he left the following message: “Hello, Mother! Hey, this is just a friendly call to let you know I broke my ankle and am about to be in the hospital. Just so you know, Mom, I love ya! I’ll be in the hospital…I don’t know what hospital…” Then the nurse got on the phone and asked, “Are you there?” before the message ended.
When I talked to my son, he told me he fell while trying to attempt a spin dance move on a hill at an outdoor concert. I was shocked that not one of his friends went with him to the hospital and asked why he was alone. He said, “You know my friends and cops—they don’t get along.” I understood that, but I was a bit disappointed for him.
My son seemed a little surprised to hear I was coming to the hospital. Yes, it was Dance Day, but I replied, “I’m your mother; of course I’m coming.” I danced to my favorite song before I left, because it wasn’t an emergency, but that’s beside the point.
When I saw his severely misplaced ankle, there was no denying it was broken. It also looked fairly obvious he’d need surgery, as well. My son was in great spirits though, and had been entertaining the medical staff with his antics, videotaping the whole adventure for his Snapchat followers.
I arrived just in time to see the doctor reset his ankle by pulling and twisting it back into place. I can’t even imagine how much that must have hurt. Then it came time for brass tacks—insurance and contact information.
That’s when everything became real for me.
When the nurse asked my son who his emergency contact was, he said, “This lovely lady here,” and pointed to me. Of course, I was honored and proud. And also, sick to my stomach.
The fact of the matter is, in three weeks, I’m leaving for a cross-country road trip and am landing in California to make a new home 1,800 miles away from the only home my son has ever known. It’s not going to be feasible for me to be his emergency contact much longer. I won’t be able to arrive at the hospital in 15 minutes, like I did last night.
While I’m excited about my new adventure, and my son is 150% supportive of it, I now feel terribly guilty about leaving. Children are supposed to move away from their parents. Parents are not supposed to move away from their children. My son is 21 years old. He is an adult. He is not a child. At the same time, he will always be my child.
When I was registering my son for freshman year of high school, my mom was dying in hospice. As I was filling out the paperwork, it registered with me that not only would my mom not be our emergency contact, but she would no longer be a contact of any kind.
That is when everything became real for me.
On a bigger scale, as a single woman, I haven’t had a traditional significant other emergency contact in 20 years. I long for the day I’m in a relationship worthy of that level of responsibility and commitment.
That’s the thing—it’s gotta be worthy. Being an emergency contact is a big responsibility and requires commitment. I’m not about having someone just to have someone. There are so many things that are worse than being single. Feeling alone in a relationship is at the top of that list for me. Especially after having gone 20 years without, I’m okay with waiting for the right person to claim my emergency contact spot.
In the meantime, I’m blessed with a collective of friends who support me and my son with the care and commitment deserving of this honorable position.
As I was finishing this article, the song “One Call Away” came up in my automatic shuffle playlist. I’ll take that as a sign that even though I may not be able to be physically by my son’s side in an emergency like I was last night, I will always be with him in spirit—in the same way my mom is with me.
Such is the circle of life.
Video source: https://youtu.be/5wBTdfAkqGU