"Hi. This is Katy. May I please speak with mi madre?"
"This is she."
"This is your daughter."
"Have you heard about the swine flu? Mexico City has been shut down. The end is near. I've started looking for real estate in Independence, Missouri. I'm at Costco buying water, bleach, and plastic so I can quarantine my house."
There's a long pause and sigh, "Last night we listened to the most beautiful pipe organ concert. You'd of been so proud of your brother."
"Have you been listening to NPR?" I say.
"It's bad, Madre."
I know she doesn't want to hear my litany of worries. Heaven knows she's endured them for 35 years. Like when I was 12, I made her take me to the doctor because I thought, from the depths of my soul, that I had breast cancer. The lumps in my chest turned out to be breast buds. (I'm still waiting for them to bloom.)
Then there was the Night Stalker, a serial killer who would break into homes at night and kill women. I refused to sleep in my room. I hid in a tent in our family room and watched the news 24/7. I don't think I slept for six months. I really thought I was his next victim.
Then I was balding, as in going bald like an 80 year old man. She took me to the doctor; I wasn't balding.
I tell mi madre goodbye and try to put my swine flu worries on hold. I traipse over to the medicine isle, scanning the shelves: Motrin, Tylenol, Gas-X. Where's the Valium? I need a double dose.