Do you know those phone calls you dread to receive? The person on the other end tells you your worst fear has come true, your loved one has passed, your company is shutting the doors. A pit opens in your stomach, and you feel yourself falling into the black hole of despair.
I will never forget one of the stupidest things I did as a teenager that resulted in my parents receiving one of those phone calls. “Mr. Butler, this is the Hoover Police [long, unnecessary pause for dramatic effect]. I have your son, Chase, here with me now.”
I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I had great group of friends in the sense that they were reliable, mostly moral, and didn’t offer me drugs, but we still had a mischievous streak in us, nonetheless. In our youthful enthusiasm, we thought bringing air horns into a movie theatre would be great entertainment.
We strategically went to the theatre nearest the rear exit of the building. We would wait until a pause in the dialogue or soundtrack and blast our horns at 130 decibels to the annoyance of the patrons who were just trying to enjoy the movie.
As soon as someone came to apprehend us, we snuck out the back to escape to the neighborhood behind the theatre. As we exited, we were greeted by the police officer who had been tipped off to what we were doing. Air horns were confiscated, and we were led to the manager’s office. Each of our parents were called by the officer.
I can’t imagine the way my parents felt at the end of the phrase, “Mr. Butler, this is the Hoover Police.” There are innumerable possibilities of terrible things that could have happened while their teenage son was out. Fortunately, it was a stupid prank, but for a second the not knowing was crippling, I’m sure.
I’ve received three extreme phone calls since we’ve had our dogs, Eleanor and Theodore. They’re skilled escape artists and have nearly gotten themselves killed on more than occasion.
The craziest of the three calls was from a woman who saw them running in the road amidst traffic. Lacie and I were thirty minutes outside of town when she called. As she explained the situation, horns blared and she screamed in terror. On my end, my only thought was, “They’ve just been killed.”
She finally calmed down and told us Eleanor had almost been hit but was okay. She said she would continue to try to catch them then hung up. We couldn’t help, and we didn’t know what would happen. In a moment, in one phone call, we went from thinking they were safe inside the fence to them nearly being gone forever.
We can’t avoid the tragic. Sure, we can lock the gate, reinforce the fence, microchip the dogs, know who the kids are hanging out with, buy insurance, drive the speed limit, get an alarm system, invest conservatively—the reality is that if the phone call hasn’t come, it likely will at some point. Few escape this world without loss, regardless of our precautions and planning.
It’s the double-edged beauty of living. It’s the risk-reward of choosing to engage this life completely. It’s the sunburn you get for deciding a day at the beach is better than locking yourself inside. It’s deciding to start a family while knowing you might lose a piece of it one day.
You just do it, anyway. You expose yourself to everything this life has to offer, because it’s worth it. Even with the suffering, the failures, the losses, the phone calls announcing our demise—it’s truly worth it.