So, at three o'clock this morning, my mother's phone rang. It was the hospital. A doctor needed to speak with her, she was told.
My mother fumbled for paper and pen, and sat silently in bed, waiting to hear that something had happened to my brother. After a few minutes, the woman came back on the line. The doctor was checking the charts, she said, and would be on the line shortly. More silence. My mother tried to remember which hospital the woman had said she was calling from. She couldn't remember.
The third time the woman came back, she said,
"Is this Maria Kirkwood?"
No, my mother said, this is Pamela.
"Oh. This is the wrong person." Click.
So then my mother called my brother. It was only one o'clock in the morning where he is, stationed on the border in Arizona. He assured her that he was fine, and then the two of them wondered-- could it be Ouisi? She might have been so badly injured that her brain was damaged and when she tried to say "Mela Kirkwood" it came out something like Maria. Ouisi could be lying alone in an ICU somewhere with a lethal brain injury. So my brothercalled my phone, and when I picked up he said, in his steady, it's-all-under-control-but-still-darned-serious voice,
"Ouisi, nothing is wrong here, but we got a call from a hospital that didn't make sense and wanted to check and see if you were okay."
Well, actually, what he said was, "Ouisi, nothing is--" and I said,
So we all went back to sleep. And nobody was dead, and I did a web search today, and there are no Maria Kirkwoods within five hundred miles of my mother. And the next time that somebody calls me at three o'clock in the morning, I'll try to remember that there are good reasons to call people at that hour, and to not open the conversation with a gutteral cry of rage.