Back at home, Dad was on the phone, but not with my Aunt Sue as Mom tortured herself imagining. He sat in the kitchen with only the oven light on, like a nightlight. He sat at the round kitchen table with the phone receiver held up to his ear and the other hand rubbing his forehead as if to press away the worry. There was a pad on the table with only Dr. Chilton written in Dad’s all cap printing, the pen lying across the page.
He’d called me into the room a moment before then held out a hand to signal me to wait. The kitchen still smelled like the fried baloney sandwiches Dad had made for dinner. There was a bright yellow smear of French’s mustard on the front of my shirt.
“Are you sure that impulsive behavior isn’t a reaction to the medication?” I started to answer but quickly realized he wasn’t talking to me. He listened to person on the other end who I assume was Mom’s cardiologist Dr. Chilton. I’d met him twice, the first time he’d asked me about school and the second complimented my dress. He was nicer to me than the nurses. We’d never used the doctor’s after hours number before, as far as I knew.
“Was she wheezing or gasping for breath at all during the day?” Dad asked looking at me. It took a moment to realize he was talking to me.
“No,” I thought a moment then added, “she sneezed when she changed the vacuum bag.”
He only repeated my no into the phone. We both waited. I’d told Dad about the radio announcement and hat Mom had sat there without restarting the car for too long. Described Aunt Arlene’s exaggerated weeping in detail, the level of my hyperbole was in direct relation to how much the episode frightened me. My Aunt Arlene was a pencil looser and a long time smoker. So I never felt any guilt blaming her for anything.
“Did Mom have to lie down or take a nap?”
My no was repeated directly into the phone. I waited a long time while Dad made acknowledging noises to whatever the Dr. was saying. He never picked up the pen to write any of it down.
“And you’re sure Mom took her medicine?’
“ I told you already, I don’t know.” Coming home in the car, Dad grilled me over the details of the day.
“Yes, I’ve checked, she took her medication.” He nodded as if assuring the person on the other line. “I don’t know if she needs any refills.”
The conversation went on for what felt like a long time without needing me. I played a little in the doorway, balancing on one foot while I counted seconds by Mississippis. Then hoping slightly in place, but that made the floor giggle and got a stern look from Dad. I waited a little while longer, then helped myself to an apple from the crisper drawer. Dad watched me but made no move to stop me.