“She must be dead,” my daughter Jordan muttered, her voice betraying her concern. She knocked a third time on the inner door of the white raised ranch, home of her maternal grandmother, Gram.
No answer. Two more raps, the latter hard enough to shoot a bolt of pain through her knuckles. “OW!”
Jordan, my eldest child at age 27, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in higher education in student affairs. Yet, when her maternal grandmother, my mother-in-in-law, failed to answer the door, Jordan was befuddled. Her car was in the driveway, after all, and she and Jordan weeks earlier had made plans to breakfast at a local diner at this time, 10 o’clock. Jordan tried the doorknob; locked. Gram never locked the door when she was home.
“No Gram in sight,” Jordan sighed. She turned, shut the exterior door, and walked down the steep driveway to where Charlie, her rust-coated, floppy-eared Cavalier King Charles Spaniel waited by Jordan’s car.
“We have to find her,” Jordan said, her voice sounding ominous to her own ears. Charlie – a girl, incidentally – wrinkled up her ever-cute snout, expanded her black M and M eyes, and barked in agreement.
Uncertain how to proceed, Jordan did the mature thing; she called her mother for guidance.
“Where’s Gram?” Jordan snapped.
“I don’t know,” said Deb, her mom and my wife, from her office. “I’m not my mother’s keeper. You know your grandmother gets around and has a busy schedule. Have you called her on her cell phone?”
“I tried, but it just keeps ringing,” Jordan said, sighing impatiently.
Gram owns an ersatz cell phone, one that features a circular dial and a battery ripped from a 1967 Rambler automobile. Not surprisingly, to the best of my knowledge, not one member of her family has ever corresponded with her by cell. Realizing Gram’s disdain for tech and most things mechanical, Deb promised to call her three siblings and query her mother’s whereabouts.
Ten minutes later, her younger brother John texted each of us with the following update:
“I spoke with her this morning, and she was alive at that time,” he reported.
Jordan’s grandmother is like carefree butterfly that flutters from flowery spot to spot, ever happy and spontaneous, never shackled by society’s ironclad rules on how an 82-year-old with a cranky hip should behave. Unfortunately, we had no idea where this butterfly had flown.
While the rest of us texted each other frantically, Jordan and Charlie took matters into their own hands and paws by putting out an APB for Gram. They sped off in Jordan’s car, stopping at each of Gram’s usual stomping grounds along the coastline: no luck at the grocery store or the hairdresser or even the site of their scheduled lunch date. Thinking she and Gram may have crossed paths during the hourlong womanhunt, Jordan headed back to Gram’s house.
Once again, her knocks went unanswered, and the door was still locked.
Desperation and fear now threatening to send her into a tizzy, Jordan decided she needed to go to extremes to find Gram.
“We have to break into Gram’s house, “ she told Charlie. “Perhaps Gram has fallen and isn’t able to respond.”
Charlie barked in agreement, and the pair sidled to a nearby window.
Although the sub-20-degree weather was ice-cubing her fingers, she managed to pry back a half-inch corner of the frigid metal screen. Charlie, meanwhile, was literally pedaling his tiny paws against the frozen earth, hoping against reason that she would dig a tunnel under the house and emerge inside, a la the prisoners on Hogan’s Heroes.
Unfortunately, both failed in their missions.
Jordan, however, is not a quitter. She’d completed her BS and MBA by age 23, and she would not be denied the opportunity to lunch with Gram – dead or alive.
“Follow me!” she shouted to Charlie, who was busy blowing on her tiny paws in attempt to thaw them. The pair took off and disappeared from the neighbors’ view and into Gram’s back yard. In her peripheral vision, Jordan spotted three cinder blocks in a neighbor’s yard. They could be fashioned into a platform she could use to boost her up to one of the second-floor windows. Surely one window would be unlocked!
With her adrenaline pushing her onward, against the odds, Jordan raced next door. Like an Olympic weightlifter, she defied the jealous clutch of the frozen ground and managed to extricate all three blocks.
Moments later, Jordan was atop the wobbly stand, stretching ever higher, growing ever taller, fingers seemingly defying straining joints and drawing a half-inch closer to the edge of the frame until… the laws of nature and physiology intervened.
“Two inches short… just two inches!” she thought. She leaned her head in frustration against the cold siding, and then dismounted the platform.
Undaunted, our ever-hopeful rescuers considered their options.
“How about the sliding door? Perhaps you can pry it open,” barked Charlie, displaying the smarts indigenous to her breed.
Nope. Ever resourceful, Gram had prevented unwanted entry by wedging a small board between the interior back edge and the door jam. Still, the glass door did provide Jordan with an unobstructed view of much of the first floor. No sign of Gram.
By now both granddaughters were feeling the effects of the frigid cold. Before they could continue their search, they needed to thaw out. Jordan grabbed Charlie and hustled her back to the car, where she turned the heater on HIGH. When they had finally warmed up, Jordan took out her cell to call Deb.
Before she could, however, each of us received a group text from Deb’s sister Sheryl:
“I reached Kyle,” she started. (Kyle, her son, was a member of a local police force.) “He has a key to Mom’s house; unfortunately, it’s in his truck.”
Oy, I thought. Another mountain to climb.
“He wants Jordan to meet him at the police station. He has to have another officer cover for him.”
Jordan read the text and rolled her eyes. Charlie expressed his frustration with a bark sharp enough to frighten a hungry coyote. By now, it was too late for lunch, and both Jordan and Charlie were hungry enough to eat a Costco pizza.
Nonetheless, the pair raced off to the police department, just six minutes away. There, a suspicious cop looked at my daughter and grand puppy as if they needed frisking for concealed weapons or dog biscuits. Fortunately, Kyle arrived to save the day. He gave Jordan the key and wished her good luck.
“I’ll have a chat with Gram when this is over,” he said, smartly.
Six minutes later she and Charlie were back at Gram’s house. They leaped out of the car, hearts racing, legs chugging like pistons up the short, steep driveway. Jordan yanked the key from her pocket. She watched, detached from her body, as her shaking hand patiently, fearfully, inserted the key into the awaiting slot.
She turned it ever-so-slowly, ever-so-hopefully. Finally, CLICK. The door swung open. Charlie led the way up the five polished, wooden steps and into the first-floor hallway.
“Gram!” Jordan called, fearing the worst.
Jordan and Charlie searched the rooms carefully, as their cousin Kyle would. One by one, until Jordan was sure there was no sign of a body. Then, she led Charlie back to the quiet, warm kitchen, where they waited, and pondered Gram’s fate.
Then, from the open front door, Jordan heard a cheerful woman’s voice she recognized immediately.
“I know that Jordan has no key, and I know I locked the house.”
The clip-clop of footsteps on wooden stairs followed.
And then Gram appeared in the kitchen looking none the worse for wear, her face iridescent from her ever-present internal peace and joy.
Jordan, stood, red-faced and battling a host of emotions. She folded her arms against her chest. Charlie looked on, quizzically.
When Jordan spoke, she was the parent chastising her late-arriving teen;
“Do you know what I went through, thinking you were dead?”
“I suggest you always go with your gut feeling,” Gram countered, rebuking Jordan like a carefree teen.
She skipped away, 82 years old, going on 13.