Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Phone Call

*****December 19th, 2006*****

That cannot be my alarm. Tell me it is not my alarm....... God damn it.... it's the alarm. Ten more minutes. Is that so much to ask for? This is ridiculous. It's 3:45 in the morning and my alarm just went off. Do people really need to Christmas shop at six am?! This is stupid. Maybe I'll just call in. Wait... it's Christmas time.. Christmas means people shopping... people shopping means commission... commission means I eat this month. God damn it.

I rolled out of bed and jumped in the shower. My head was pounding. My stomach was in knots. I had felt this way since December 4th, the day that J.R. went back to Iraq.

Suck it up. You're going to work. Just get in the car, drive to Eau Claire, and put on a happy face. Yes, glue on the smile. Smile. Why is it so hard to smile? What is going on with you? What is wrong with you? He's in Iraq, big deal. He's been there for months, he's a good soldier. He's fine. Come on.. smile. That's it.. no more thinking about him. It's time for work. Think shoes Josie.. think shoes.

I arrived at work, fifteen minutes early as normal. I turned on my registers, looked over the floor, and checked my stock of new shoes that had just arrived. Having made a mental list in my mind of small jobs to occupy my time while the store was still quiet, I left for the morning meeting.

"Good morning! You'll see the credit goal is..."

I wonder what he's doing. He has to be in Anaconda by now. He said they were running a convoy up there. I bet he's still sleeping. I wonder when they're leaving to head back down south. They'll go tonight. They have to. Oh shit.. hey focus you're in the meeting. Think work.

"Alright, that wraps things up. Sell, sell, sell, and have a great day everyone!!"

I walked back to my shoe department and began to rearrange the clearance section. Mindless work that required absolutely no attention on my part.

Ugh.. I feel horrible. I think I'm going to puke. Don't puke. Do not puke. You are fine.

Finally around eight am customers started filling the store. My day was beginning.

"Excuse me mam? Mam?"

"Oh hi, I'm sorry. I didn't hear you. Can I pull a size out for you?"

"A nine."

"Right, be right back."

I walked into the stock room and began to run up and down the aisles of shoes.

Don't puke, don't puke, don't puke. Shit.... what shoe was she looking for? It was a boot.. the one with fur?

I walked out of the stock room with no shoe. This never happens. Why can't I focus?

"I'm sorry, can you show me the shoe again? I must not be fully awake yet."

And so went my day. Customer after customer, shoe after shoe. I left work at two pm exhausted and stressed out. For December there was very little snow on the ground. I was thankful for this as I ran to my car, anxious to get out of the bitter cold. As I turned the car on my phone rang.


"Hey, Jos. It's Cheri."

"Hey Cheri. What's goin on?"

"Hey, Angie and I were thinking we should get together tonight. We're both leaving Menomonie in the morning for Christmas break. How about your place around five? We'll bring all the food and drinks."

"I dunno Cheri. I've been up since the crack of dawn and I'm really crabby. I don't think I'll be much fun to be around."

"Jos, it's the last night we're going to be in town for a while. We're coming over."

"Alright, alright. But I have to be in bed by nine. I have another day of hell tomorrow at work."

"No problem. We'll see you in a bit."

Why are they coming over? All I wanted was a quiet night in my apartment. This is so not cool. Not cool guys. OK, new plan for the night. Go home, sleep, see the girls, go back to sleep. Easy enough. It'll be fun. Fun... yes.. must have fun.

I laid down, but could not sleep. I tossed and turned. My brain was going a hundred miles an hour. My heart was racing. What was happening? Why was I feeling so stressed out?

The girls arrived and brought in the groceries. Mudslides were poured and the cooking began. Tonight we would feast on a chicken pot pie as we drank and watched a movie. A quiet night. The perfect way to end semester.

My phone was ringing. Where is it? A frantic search began.

"Who is it Jos?"

"I dunno... I think it's a Minneapolis number. I'll let it go to voicemail. I've been getting a lot of prank calls from this area code lately. Someone must have had this cell phone number before me or something. Weird."

Why wont this thing stop ringing? Goodness, shouldn't voicemail have picked it up by now? Maybe I should pick it up. Josie... pick up the phone. HEY.. HEY DINGLEHEAD.. PICK UP YOUR PHONE!!!


"Hi, is this Josie Salzman?"

"Josie, this is 1SG.."

Fuck. Fuck, fuck fuck. This is not good. Don't say it. Don't say anything else. Just tell me hi and have a normal conversation with me.... please.

"...Spc Salzman is ok, but there's been an accident."

He's ok.

"His truck hit an IED."


"He's lost his right hand."

Wait.. what? What did he just say?? Moments pass. SAY SOMETHING!!!

"I don't understand. What do mean he lost his hand. Like... it's completely gone?"

"Yes. It's gone."

"I don't understand. Just his hand? How far up is it?"

"From what I know it's at the wrist. He's stable. He's going to be OK."

"Is there anything else wrong?"

"There were a few minor cuts on his left arm and a few scrapes on his legs."

"Where is he? Does he know what's happened? He's allergic to morphine. Is he in pain?"

"He's been medevaced to the green zone. The doctors are taking care of him there."

Josie stop... slow down. Think. He wasn't the only one in the vehicle. The other men. Are the other men ok?

"What about the other guys. Are they ok?"

"They're fine. J.R. was hurt the worst."

Deep breaths. He's going to be ok. Calm down. CALM DOWN. Think. What do you need to know?

"What happens now? What's going on? When do I get to talk to him? When will he be home?"

"The military will be in contact with you. This is all the information I have for now. I'm sorry I don't know more."

"It's ok. It's fine. Umm... thanks for the phone call."

Shit. Gotta tell Mom. No, gotta call work. No, gotta tell Tina. His parents. Shit. Breathe. No... No do not cry. You cannot cry. Crying is not going to help you right now.

The tears came anyway. I walked back into the kitchen. Cheri and Angie knew something was wrong and I could see the looks of concern on their faces.

"J.R. lost his hand. I don't know what's going on. I don't know what to do. I have to go to Hayward. I'm leaving.. I'm leaving now. Where are my shoes?"

"Jos, are you sure you can drive? One of us will take you."

"No, no I have to do this myself. I can't tell his parents this over the phone. I have to go. You guys stay here. Cook, watch a movie, do whatever. Just um... do the dishes and turn the lights off on your way out."

"Jos, are you sure?

"Yeah... I'll be ok."

I put my shoes on and then made a few quick phone calls. First was work. They had to know that I wouldn't be in in the morning. Next, my parents. I called home, no answer. I called the office, no answer. I tried over and over and over yet no answer ever came. I started to panic.

Call Beth. Shit.. no answer. Becca... Becca will be able to find them. No answer. Becca's parents... no answer. Stop breathing so hard. Come on.. calm down. You'll find them. Just calm down. Call Paul... he'll stay calm.


"Jo? What's going on??"

The tears had started.

"J.R. has been hurt. He's lost his hand. I can't find Mom and Dad. You gotta go find em. I don't know where they are."

"Jo, calm down. Take a deep breath. I'll go find them."

With that I jumped in the car and left for Hayward. Constantly dialing the phone. It was dark and my eyes were blurred with tears.

"Tina? Tina... J.R. is ok, but hes been in an accident. He's lost his right arm."

Phone calls that I wish I could forgot, but can't. Voices that are forever burned into my mind. I continued to call for as long as I had service. I was almost to his parents.

What are you going to say to them? What if they're not home? It's almost nine at night.. they have to be home. How do I phrase this? I can't believe I have to tell them this. Why me? Why can't someone else do this? How do you tell someones parents that their son lost his hand? Oh my God he lost his hand. What's it going to be like when I hug him? I don't know if I can do this. What if he doesn't know what's happened to him? What if he's in pain? Please don't be in pain. He's probably scared. Ugh.. why can't I be there now?

I pulled into the driveway. I wiped the tears from my eyes, took a deep breath, and ran to the door. It was unlocked. The door is never unlocked. I walked in. As his mom walked into the living room I blurted out as fast as I could what had happened. It took a minute to process. I sat down and began repeating the story over and over. I was getting confused. I couldn't remember the phone call anymore. I couldn't answer the questions as they were the same questions I was waiting to have answered.

Half an hour passed. Having no cell phone service I returned to my car and drove home. The Army would be trying to call soon. The information would start to come my way. I arrived home to my empty apartment.

What do I do now? It's quiet. Ring.. ring God damn it. Somebody call me. Tell me what's going on. He's lost his right hand. I'm not going to get to hold his hand anymore. I love that hand. He's not going to be able to play his video games. He loves his xbox. How is he going to write? What if he's scared?

My phone rang. It was my Mom.

"Jo, we're coming up tomorrow. We'll be there in the afternoon."

"No, Mom. I'm fine. Really. It's not going to do any good to have you here. I'm just waiting for them to fly me to J.R. You're not going to make the phone ring any faster if you're here. Just stay home."

"No, we're coming."

"Well... If you have to come... bring Becca."

The following days were sleepless. Information was slow to come. Days felt like years and a week felt like an eternity. The stress of the last two weeks was finally clear. Somewhere deep inside of me I knew. I knew that he was in danger. I knew something was wrong. It was the reason why I could not let go at the airport when we said goodbye two weeks prior. It was the reason for the panic attacks and my inability to focus.

Somehow, I survived the week and made it to D.C. I had no idea what lay ahead of us. I didn't care. I had my husband and that was all that mattered.


ilvmygi08 said...

I appreciate you posting this more then you could ever imagine.
It helps to know that I need to trust my gut when it comes to my husband being over there- and if I truly feel that something is wrong, it probably is, and to not ignore it. Even though there's not a whole hell of a lot I can do or find out, it's at least reassuring because there's not a lot you can control when it comes to the military and this damn war.
I've also always wondered how it all happens. Do they call? Do they knock on the door (god my heart stops everytime someone knocks)? How much can they tell you intially? etc.. I know it's just your personal experience, but it still gives me a lot more insight then I previously had.
I enjoy reading your blog- and again, thank you for sharing this part of your lives.

Tracy said...

I can't even imagine.


Anonymous said...

Can't begin to imagine the seismic effect that call had on your life.
Cathy B

Kat said...

More (((hugs))) from here in GA

Kris, in New England said...

Courage and strength, they name is Josie.

Anonymous said...

JR is home now, the future is New and Bright, the painful memories are in the (past).Not a good thing to keep reliving them.
Be there Lovingly for JR.
Enjoy Each Other ! and every new day in your lovely hometown.

ABW said...

Thinking of y'all....

Stacy said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us Josie. I can only imagine what you went through.

Jinx said...

Thanks for sharing your story! *HUGS*

Anonymous said...

while i couldnt stop reading i hadd to do something and i just didnt. your story really made me think of a lot and how my sis-in-law might be feeling everyday her husband is in afganistan.