February 11, 2011

Forever Linked

I could never have imagined that events so seemingly unrelated would be forever linked in my mind. There are four events, two then two more, that, although separated by time and distance, are such strong reminders of each other that I cannot think of one without thinking of the others.

The first two took place in 1994. I was a senior in college, living in a small cottage in Berkeley, my parents and brother in the San Fernando Valley. My roommate and I had ignored an early morning phone call, but when it rang again I picked up. It was my mom, telling me about an earthquake. It was big, she said, lots of damage, but they were okay. I turned on the TV to see the ruins caused by what we learned to be the Northridge quake, my roommate unable to reach her mom who lived in that very same city. It took at least a half hour before we noticed the blinking light on the answering machine: a message from her mom, also safe, who had been our first early morning caller.

Some days later, I received another phone call. This time, the news was of my brother’s first seizure, the starting gun to what turned out to be a long race against the brain tumor that would eventually kill him.

Years later, my brother still alive but bedridden and only sometimes lucid, I was living in a different place and with a different roommate, but we received another early morning call. This one started “turn on the TV,” which we did, just as a plane crashed into the second twin tower. Shortly after that, I went down to visit my family, and realized that my brother, so worldly yet a believer in the goodness of people, had no knowledge of those events. The understanding that there was no longer a need to let him in on significant world events had a profound effect on me.

In early March, to celebrate my birthday, I went to New York to visit a friend. That was the first time I saw the empty space at Ground Zero. My parents called me to cut my trip short as they believed the end was near for my brother. It turned out those weren’t his last days, though he died toward the end of the month.

An earthquake, a seizure, and a terrorist attack all reported to me through phone calls. But I was there for the last event, sitting on my brother’s bed as his breathing slowed. It stopped, and then the whole world shifted.

Written as part of The Red Dress Club, a community of writers. This week's prompt was to write a piece that begins with the line, "I could never have imagined" and ends with the line, "Then the whole world shifted."

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