OK, so I worry. Grandmas do that.
While our granddaughter was vacationing in Hawaii with relatives, a severe strain of winter flu had landed many Americans in hospitals. I chided myself that I was being overdramatic when I began worrying about our favorite 14-year-old. Riding in my daughter’s car that cold day in January, I relaxed when she reported that her daughter was having a great time in paradise.
Mid-ride, her cellphone rang. Pulling over to the curb, she read the caller’s name. “It’s her,” she announced and put it on the speaker so I could hear, too. I was thrilled.
“Hello, sweetie, what’s up?” my daughter asked.
“Mom, I don’t want to worry you.” She paused. “But there’s a missile headed for Hawaii.”
“Yes, Dad insisted I call you before you see it on TV.”
“How do you know?”
“It came on our phones. It says, ‘Emergency alert. Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.' ” Our teenager read the words in a steady voice.
We locked eyes as we both leaned closer to the dashboard. I could read her mind. This is not real. This scenario could not be happening in real time.
“Grandma’s here with me,” my daughter said.
“Hi, sweetheart,” I said, louder than I needed to. “It’s Grandma. Did everyone get that message?”
“Yes. We all got it on our phones.” She sounded amazingly calm. “What time is it there?” I asked.
“Eight in the morning. We’re just getting up.”
“Where are you?”
“In our room.”
I nodded to my daughter to take over the conversation. I started choking up.
But before she could speak, tears ran down her face. We both began to cry and our teen so far away heard us.
“I didn’t want to tell you, Mom, but Dad said I should,” she said after a moment.
“No, that’s OK,” my daughter quickly answered, clearing her throat. “We would want to know. What will you do next?’
“Go to breakfast,” she answered, nonchalantly.
Pause on our end.
“But what will you do next?” her Mom insisted.
“Go to breakfast,” she again answered.
Breakfast? That seemed so ordinary, something they would do if a missile was not hurtling toward Hawaii. Shouldn’t they all run immediately to a shelter?
I did not want the conversation to end. Would we ever talk to my granddaughter again? See her again?
We finally had to let her go. “We love you, we love you, we love you,” we both said, pouring as much caring into those words as possible. I put my head down into my hands to wipe away tears and the irony of the situation hit me: I had been worried about the flu ...
Quickly, we pulled ourselves together, drove to my home and ran to the television set. We listened to it for 30 terrifying minutes until the announcement came that it was all a mistake: An employee in a Hawaiian agency had pushed the wrong button. There was no missile. We were so drained, we could not cheer.
I was so proud of my granddaughter’s demeanor during that stressful time. When faced with such a horrific emergency, she was grace personified.
As for me, the worrier? There should be a lesson in this story for me somehow. I worried about the flu and dodged a missile instead.
Oh, and breakfast was free that morning, she told me later. That gave me some consolation.
Town of Tonawanda resident Lois Vidaver will never forget Jan. 13, 2018.