"BB, your mother is gravely ill. You need to come up here. Today."
I think I can be forgiven for at first failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Anne, after all, is known for hysteria in episodic bursts and melodrama in, well, everything, so the news of another illness did not strike me as worth, say, interrupting my lunch for.
I actually laughed when I got the voice mail message.
"BB," Anne croaked, her voice ragged and pitiable. "I'm in the hospital. Call me."
I tossed my head back and cackled, because it was just such an Anne thing to do. Call someone, inform them you've been hospitalized, and then offer no context whatsoever. For all I knew she could've had Ebola, and maybe that was the point. Several years ago she sent my brother into a panic with a frenzied voice mail about a "spot on her lung" that later turned out to be nothing but a bout of the recurring pneumonia that's followed her since she was a child. I figured it was more of the same.
"I bet she has pneumonia again," I told Thomas. "I bet that's what it is."
And I was right--in part.
"BB," Uncle Nose-Hair's voice came through the phone. I was speaking with him because Anne was physically unable to talk. "She's pretty bad. The doctor said that if they hadn't gotten her in here when they did she would have been dead by tomorrow morning."
"How is she now? Is it still life-threatening?"
"We're just not sure," he responded. "They've been trying to give her a CAT scan but she can't lie down on her back without suffocating. I think she's going to make it but it's not one hundred percent. This is really bad pneumonia."
So Powell and I are headed north, because whether she dies or not, and whether she's awful or not, it just feels indelibly wrong to let a very sick woman suffer alone in a hospital bed. And a part of me really hates myself for getting sucked back in, for letting myself be compelled once again to do something I don't want to on behalf of someone I really don't like.
But we're going.