How’d He Get This Number?

“Hello?”  The phone on the bedside table was loud, and I answered it on the second ring.  Fortunately, I was alone in the hospital room, so there was no one to bother, but its loudness still seemed to echo through the sterile quiet of the hospital hallways.

A familiar, warm voice on the other end of the phone asked, “How are you doing, sweetie?”

A moment of panic ensued.  What on Earth was Rick Springfield doing calling me in my hospital room?

Working for Rick gave each of us a strange, distant insight at times to the personal edges of each other’s lives.  I knew, for example, when he was taking his kids out for a bike ride, because he would apologize for cutting me off because they were waiting.  He knew when my husband and I were arguing about a late night fan chat I was hosting, because I’d make a comment as we set up the instant message window we always had active in the background.   But mostly our conversations were transactional:  did you mail me the autographed photos I was going go to use as prizes for our charity fundraiser yet, did you put the New Year’s Eve message I wrote out on the website yet.  Somewhere in my head I thought it was possible that someday we’d call each other friends, but I wasn’t fool enough to believe we were anywhere near that point yet.  When Rick sent me a Happy Birthday email, I knew that someone had reminded him to do it; the same as I reminded him about other members of our team and their important days.

Rick knew I’d had the baby, asking for me to send photos when I could, and I’d obliged last week when we’d returned home from the hospital. But when things had taken a downward spiral, they’d happened so quickly that I’d never bothered to let him know what was going on; if I didn’t answer a question for a day or two, he’d assume that I was busy with the baby.  I had let my cohorts that I worked with in the Rick Springfield fan club know; we interacted so many times a day that each of us would worry if a response hadn’t come within an hour or two of a question.

Which one of them, I quickly pondered as I stared at the phone in my hand.  Which one of them would be crazy enough to contact Rick Springfield and let him know about my highly personal, highly female problem that had landed me back in the hospital a week after Michael’s birth.

It had to be Elizabeth.  Of the three of us, she had the most tenuous connection to him; I worked on the website, Vivian was in charge of the fan club, and Elizabeth the email list.  Rick, in his technologically challenged brain, didn’t quite understand what The List was and how big a force it had become in our work with his fans.  In the days before Facebook and MySpace, our email list served as the hub of not only news and information, but real time conversations with people about Rick, his shows, as well as people’s lives.  The List had nearly two thousand subscribers and generated hundreds of emails a day.  Elizabeth was busy with her work as a result, but since she was not only the least understood in her role of the three of us, but also the last person we’d added to the team, Rick saw her as third in the pecking order of his Fan Team.

I really couldn’t see Vivian giving Rick the head’s up on this.  She had too much on her plate and frankly wouldn’t bother.  She was concerned for me, of course, but never would involve Rick. But Elizabeth would, I thought.  Sharing the news about me would give her a reason to email him.  I found myself irritated by her sharing news that was not her own with him, but swallowed it as I found the words to respond to him with.

“Oh, you know, I’ll be fine,” I said.  “I can’t believe you’re calling me in the hospital.  I mean, don’t you have some very important rehearsing or songwriting to do?.”

“Are you ok?  Why are you back in the hospital?”

Oh dear lord.  How to explain to Rick Springfield that my placenta didn’t properly dislodge from my uterus and that now I was all gummed up inside, so the doctors had to go in through my nethers to scrape all the unwanted, infected nasty crap out of me?  “Um…let’s just say that not everything went as smoothly as we thought with the birth, so I had to be readmitted to make sure everything will heal properly.”  I just knew my face was bright red as I invented the sanitized version of What Was Really Going On.

“How’s the baby?  Is Michael OK?”

Even though I was irritated with Elizabeth telling Rick about the whole business, I was still touched and amazed that Rick not only knew my baby’s name, but that he was concerned for him as well.  “He’s good.  They have to bring him to me from home to nurse,” I paused; was I really talking about breastfeeding with Rick Springfield, here?  “But since he’s no longer a patient,”  I kept going, forcing myself not to think about it, “He can’t stay with me.  So that’s a little hard on everyone.  But my father in law came down from Michigan to help, so we’re getting through it ok.”

“Oh that’s good,” Rick said, actually sounding relieved.  “I still can’t believe how much he looks like you.”

“Do you think so?  How can you tell with anyone when they’re so new?”  Just then, a nurse came into the room, gesturing to me that she needed my arm to check my vitals and add a new bag if antibiotics to my IV.  Just as well.  This conversation had the potential to become uncomfortable again, quickly.  “Oh listen, Rick, the nurse is here.  I have to get off the phone now.”

“Oh, OK,” he answered, sounding as if he was a little surprised that I was ushering him off the phone so quickly.  I supposed that he wasn’t exactly used to that kind of treatment.  “Just glad to hear you’re OK.  We can’t live without you, you know, so get better fast.”

My cheeks were bright red, I could feel them glowing.  “Thanks for saying that.  I’ll do my best.”

“OK, take care of that baby and get well soon.”

“Thanks Rick.  Goodbye,” I said quickly and hung up the phone.  The nurse raised her eyebrow at me; she had met my husband last night and knew his name was not Rick.  “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you,” I said, shaking my head with a wry smile.

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