Be forewarned. Nothing prepares your for the phone call. The unimaginable, the unspeakably awful happens, and the phone call comes at an odd hour from an unidentified number, un appel secret.
You're in the middle of being witty on the phone, at the dinner table, or in writing. Carefree. You're juggling social plans. And then this. This is your children's life calling, some kind but anonymous official calling to let you know that your family will be forever altered. You spend until 4 in the morning on Skype making new plane reservations, cancelling other plans, and calling stateside family and ex-family in hospital waiting rooms and undisclosed cell phone locations. You contact all your friends and try to find some sort of logical thread in the surreal. You try to make sense of it all, figure out what all your Paris promises are that you have to break. Now more than ever you are acutely aware of the transatlantic time difference, in minutes.
You call the gardienne to ask her to keep your mail. "For how long?" she asks.
"Je ne sais pas. Une semaine ou deux," you say.
You call the taxi to come first thing in the morning.
"I need you to come, but I don't want to interrupt your life," says your daughter.
"You are my life," you say.