A Phone Call

Monday morning comes with a round of meetings. The entire department sitting down to plan activities for the week. In about ten minutes I need to set up for a technical presentation, my Power Point file on the thumb drive beside a pad of paper. It is just past the opening niceties that my cell phone rings, an abrupt interruption that stops all conversation around the table. It takes a few seconds to fumble the phone out of the belt pouch, stabbing the button on the side to silence the cheerful and yet unwelcome tune.

Looking at the number on the little screen I take a deep breath, reading no further than the area code before all thoughts of the meeting fade. This is the morning my father is in surgery, a heart bypass operation. It is not his first, the family went through this same event many years ago, but he is older, a worry is there, coloring all emotions. The last times I have seen my father he has seemed to tire a little more easily, looked a little older. Unable to join my mother and I in a swim out to the reef, turning around part way out to sit on the beach instead. Opting not to travel to the summit and the thin air of 13,600ft for a tour of the telescope where I work.

Fred Cooper
Fredrick Cooper kayaking in Warm Springs Bay, Baranof Island, Alaska
We are planning another vacation to Alaska this coming summer. A trip that will bring together close family who are normally spread across half a continent and more. Twenty two days on a rented boat out of Juneau, fishing, cruising and watching bears, glaciers and whales. But most importantly spending time with my family, something I all too seldom do. Chasing dreams and working at the observatory in Hawai’i has a price, years spent far from family.

For a few seconds after the phone is silenced I can do nothing but stare at the number. I need to return this call, but am loath to do so. Sliding out of the conference room I feel my co-workers’s eyes following. Once in the hall I take a breath and attempt to remember the keys needed to redial the last caller. For a moment the sequence escapes me, my mind far beyond the keypad. I hit end to reset the phone and start again.

The phone rings, and continues to ring, I hold my breath as it takes far too long for someone to answer. Finally I hear my mother’s voice, a smooth and normal tone that puts fears to rest even before her words have meaning. The news is good, everything went well, he is in recovery and should be be receiving guests shortly. I return to the meeting, making my apologies, turn on the projector and begin to load the file into the laptop.

There is a boat and a fishing pole waiting in Alaska this summer, I will be there.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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