The Story Behind The Phone Call That Changed My Life
And why I now hate Palisade, Colorado.
by Emma Heirendt
If you’ve ever received bad news, through a phone call, a text, or even in person, you probably still have a vivid recollection of it. You can remember what you were doing, how you were feeling, the exact spot you were standing in. You may even remember what you were eating, drinking and the smells in the room.
One of the most common examples of this is recalling where you were when you heard about the 9/11 attacks. I was in 3rd grade. I had just walked into class and the room was buzzing. A boy came up to me and said, “This changes EVERYTHING.” I didn’t know what he meant at the time, I don’t think he knew what he meant, either. But he was right, it changed everything.
On Sunday, August 13th, 2017, my husband and I went on a road trip to Palisade, Colorado, a town about 4 hours west of Denver.
We began our day at the local farmers’ market, selecting the perfect, famous, Palisade peaches to enjoy during our trip. I think we passed the peach stand 20 times, collecting samples every. single. time. We would tell the man, “No, no! We already had a sample!” He shrugged, “That’s OK. Another! Another!”
We ate lunch at Palisade Cafe. The food was wonderful, the service was great. We sat on the patio and talked about how perfect Palisade was and how someday, we might move here for a change of pace. At this point, I loved Palisade.
Our next stop was a winery just outside of town. We were sitting in the back corner of the sampling room, working our way through the wine list when I received a missed call from “Home”. This would be my mom, because my dad was traveling. A voicemail popped up, I listened. It wasn’t my mom, it was my parents’ neighbor. All she said was, “Hi Emma, this is Maria, call me back on my cell phone.”
I stepped outside. I called Maria and she said, “I found your mom. I’m so sorry. There was nothing I could do.” At this point, I thought my mom had fallen and was in the hospital. I sat down in the dirt, right next to a fire pit. I started knocking a small rock around with my index finger. There was a long pause.
“Maria…is my mom alive?”
“No…” Maria’s voice quivered.
I tried to cry and I couldn’t. I was in disbelief. My dad was on a plane and couldn’t be reached. I was four hours from home. My sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles all still hadn’t heard the news. I had never felt so alone.
On our way home the police called me and asked questions. My husband and I were the last people to see my mom alive. The call was a blur, but I remember that they said, “It’s best if you let your father break the news to everyone when he gets back into town. We still haven’t been able to get in touch with him.”
So there I was, sitting in the car, four hours from home. I was using an old glove as a tissue because we didn’t have any Kleenex. I began to ask my husband unanswerable questions.
“What happened? How did it happen? When did it happen? WHY did it happen?”
Four hours later we were home. I ran into my father’s arms.
“Oh my sweet daughter,” he said, while sobbing on my shoulder, “Oh…my sweet daughter.”
Palisade was perfectly picturesque. It would have been a lovely weekend getaway. But I don’t think I will ever get myself to go back. The memories are too vivid, too deep and way too painful.
Just as my 4th grade classmate said, “This changes everything.”
Thanks for reading,