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Trapped in an elevator with a severe case of claustrophobia, she took the opportunity to record her feelings about her father.
One minute, I was a 31-year-old part-time music teacher. The next, I’d turned into one of my pre-K students, hyperventilating and sobbing uncontrollably, wishing Mom and Dad would come rescue me. That’s what claustrophobia will do to you.
My parents were home on Long Island, though, and I was trapped in an elevator in a Manhattan high-rise. All alone. This was exactly what I’d been afraid of when my best friend asked me to come see her new apartment. Unless I wanted to climb 15 flights of stairs, this metal coffin was my only way up.
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So I said a prayer and went for it. I was doing okay...until the elevator car jerked and then came to a halt–between floors. What a cruel trick for God to play on me.
I tried taking deep, cleansing breaths. Feeling faint, I sank to the floor and tucked my head between my knees. Close your eyes, go to your happy place. Maybe because the next day was Father’s Day, I thought back to how Dad comforted me when I was a little girl. “Catch the kiss!” he’d say.
He’d pucker his lips, blow a kiss and laugh as I ran around our living room, grabbing handfuls of air, trying to hold on to the invisible. Had I ever told him what those moments meant to me? I might never get the chance. Not if I suffocated in here...or if the cable snapped and I plummeted to my death.
I opened my eyes. Blinking away my tears, I spied a little door below the button panel. Emergency Phone. Thank God! I snatched up the receiver. “I’m stuck in here! Get me out, please!” At the very least, maybe they could relay my last words to my family...
“We’re working on it, ma’am,” a voice responded. “I know you’re upset, but the longer we stay on the phone, the longer it will take us to free you.”
I hung up immediately.
I rummaged through my purse for a tissue. My hand bumped something hard. The mini tape recorder I used for my classes. Make this time count, I thought. Tell everyone you love what you’ve always wanted to tell them. I held the microphone end to my lips and pressed Record. I started with Dad.
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“Dad, I remember you at the playground, how you stood at the end of the giant blue slide, waiting to catch me. I’m all grown up now, but I continue to count on you to be there for me when I’m scared. You never let me down.
"In my mind, you’ll always be the giant that met me at the bottom of the slide...and I’ll always be your little girl. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.”
Clang! What was that? The cable snapping? A panicked heartbeat later, the elevator doors slid open. An EMT was waiting. I nearly leaped into his arms. He looked me over and led me downstairs to the lobby.
I buzzed my friend’s apartment. She came down with some photos of the place. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But really, what were the odds this would happen to you?”
I told my parents all about it when I saw them on Father’s Day. Then I handed Dad my gift. He looked confused. “A tape recorder?” he asked.
“Just press Play,” I said.
He listened to my message. “This is the best gift you could have given me,” he said. Now he was the one blinking away tears.