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It was then that I knew my mom must be dead.

These were the days before everyone had cell phones, before constant communication, when most people had to stand in a room and interact with a box to hear what was happening in their lives.

It was 7:00am. Storms threatened overhead as I hastily packed my toddler's diaper bag. We were just about to leave for my parents' house, more than two hours away. As I rushed toward the door, I noticed a blinking red light on the answering machine and thought I'd better check it before I left. These were the days before everyone had cell phones, before constant communication, when most people had to stand in a room and interact with a box to hear what was happening in their lives. "You have five new messages," the robotic voice flatly announced.

Wow, I thought, they were all left overnight. A lump instantly formed in my throat. Middle-of-the-night phone calls only meant one thing: BAD NEWS.
All the recordings were nearly identical, but from different members of my immediate family -- every member, in fact, except for my mother.

Message one, 4:02am: "Manda, it's me. I need to talk to you. It's...uh...extremely important. Pick up, okay?" (pause) "Listen, I--I love you. Please call me as soon as you get this." It was from my sister.

Message two, 4:15am: same thing, from my other sister.

Message three, 4:37am: from my brother.

Message four, 5:09am: from my other brother.

Message five, 5:57am: from my dad.

It was then that I knew my mom must be dead. She was always the bearer of news, the mothership in charge of satelliting important information to everyone in the family. She would be calling me herself if there was something that warranted mid-night calls. Therefore, she must be dead-- the only logical answer. I hated logic.

I would later learn that a heart attack in the middle of the night, like a goddamn thief, had taken Mom from me. At 7:05am on a rainy September morning, I stood staring down at a black box waiting for my mother's voice. It never came.

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