05:06:06 pm on
Friday 12 Jul 2024

Only a Phone Call
AJ Robinson

I got a phone call from my mom, today. I almost wept at the sound of her voice. That isn’t a normal occurrence for me, but these are unique times.

We are all recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The storm came ashore, as a strong category 3 hurricane, just south of Naples, Florida, which is where my mom lives in an assisted living facility. After pounding that area, Irma moved up the coast, hit Bonita Springs, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, eventually giving Central Florida, where I live, quite the shellacking. We lost power early in the evening, which meant no air conditioning or hot food. It also meant no internet or phones.

Our last contact, with my mom, made it clear what was happening at her facility. They were moving all of the residents to the second floor and into the hallway. They had generators and food, tables and chairs, too. In the case of my mom, she was lucky, she knew one of the residents on that floor and thus could sit in her place as the storm raged outside.

Yet, as reports came in on the news, we heard of nothing but bad things happening down where mom lived: high winds, storm surge, heavy rain, power failure and destruction. Of course, once we lost power, all that ended and not knowing was worse than getting reports. We had to wonder: how was her building holding up? How bad was the storm surge, how deep? What of food, water and medicine that was necessary for her and other residents. Had some windows blown out, was anyone hurt?

Hot and bored after Irma ripped through.

The day after Irma ripped through Orlando, we were hot and bored. We managed to keep ourselves busy playing with Zane, our foster son, and the girls next door. Their parents had bought a charcoal grill the day before Irma hit, and thus we were able to cook a decent dinner.

Still, there was still no word from any of our families. The mother and sister of my wife, Jo Ann, were in Fort Myers. We knew nothing of their situation. Her sister and brother-in-law had come to Central Florida; they were safe. My brother, Greg, and his family holed up in a warehouse in Naples. They were above the flood stage, but without power or anything else.

Then, right after dinner on Monday, our power came back on. For those who have never been without air conditioning in high heat, it is a true blessing of technology! Yet, internet and phone service was spotty. We were able to text, but calling anyone was virtually impossible.

Time slipped along slowly and now we could watch the news. This only heightened our concern, as we heard how bad the damage was in some. I tried to call my mom, but the phone never so much as rang. There was no service.

Finally, through a variety of sources, text messages and Facebook, we learned that everyone had gotten through the storm. Well, everyone except my mom. There was still no word on her.

Greg and his family were trying to get back to their homes. They had no idea as to the conditions of the buildings, but at least all members of the family were okay.

Then, quickly, abruptly, a call came through. The caller ID said: Silvana Robinson. Mom had managed to get a call to work on her cell phone. We spoke, and she told me they’d weathered the storm without a severe incident.

At her residence, there was no power for the apartments, but the A/C was running in the halls and everybody could keep cool. The kitchen was only able to produce one meal a day, which meant food was an issue, but they were surviving.

A phone call can make such a difference.

What does the future hold? Will she be okay? Will she have to evacuate? Only time will tell, but at least for now, for this one day, this one moment, we know she’s all right. Yeah, just a phone call, but it carried so much meaning.


Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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