Over the years I’ve heard a handful of phrases that have rocked me to my core:
~Your Grandma Gordon has stomach cancer
~Your baby’s head is right THERE, do not push (This was said to me during a routine checkup for my firstborn who wasn’t due for another 6 weeks. Surprise!)
~Your daughter has a rare brain disorder
~Your father has cancer
and last week:
~We think Dad had a mild heart attack.
The message was delivered by my sister, Melissa, via voicemail. As I sat in a Girl Scout meeting and listened to her explain the situation on my cell phone, the shrieks of my daughter and her fellow scouts faded away. Missie’s voice was deliberately calm because apparently even though I am the oldest of five children I also have a reputation for overreacting. It’s not uncommon for my brother to tell me, “settle your crazy ass down.”
My sister swears she left everyone the same kind of slow gentle voice mail message, but I’m betting she’s a liar-face. She could just as easily have been talking to a child, small animal, or someone who was heavily medicated. I mean, it’s not like I fall out on the floor and start shouting, “Help me, Jesus,” like a guest on Jerry Springer, but I am prone to bouts of uncontrollable sobbing at the mention of illness or accident so in hindsight, that was probably a smart move on her part.
Don’t bother the kids
That night, my father suggested that my stepmother wait to tell us about the situation. He also insisted he should’ve been allowed to go sing at the gig he was scheduled for that night, and was generally irritated by the, “whole damn thing.” We were advised to stand down wherever we were, wait for text updates, and say a little prayer, but really, it was probably nothing.
P.S. – Dad had a guardian angel that night, my stepmother – Valinda Gordon.
In two hours things went from, “Oh look, he’s got a little color back in his face,” to, “Yeah, so, we need to get him into surgery, ASAP, because his body is trying to have a heart attack even though we’ve got IV meds on board and a nitro patch on his chest.”
Stay home and wait for text updates while a bastard heart attack was trying take down my Daddy? Hell. To. The. No.
Within 30 minutes, my brother and I joined Melissa, my stepmother, and our niece in the waiting room. My sisters, Tracy and Lucy, happened to be eating dinner together that night but unfortunately, they were in a little town several hundred miles away. They had also started their trek toward the hospital.
Seventeen hours later – okay, it only seemed that long, but it was actually more like 20 minutes, the surgeon emerged from a side door:
*The five us stood up and yelled “HERE” simultaneously as if someone had just called our name to be seated at a Mexican restaurant. You never have to ask us twice*
Doctor: “There was 99% blockage. We put in 2 stents. He is doing well. You can see him soon. He can probably go home on Thursday.”
Me/Melissa/Kylie/Mom: “Oh, really. Oh my goodness. I’m glad he’s okay. That’s great.”
Doctor: “Yes, he did quite well.”
Jason: “So, 99 percent? No shit, huh?”
Doctor: *blink* *smile* *shakes Jason’s hand* *leaves quickly*
After the surgeon’s graceful exit, we all looked at each other and then simultaneously asked, “Did he just say 99% was BLOCKED?”
The rest of the group got busy on their cell phones, texting updates, particularly to Tracy and Lucy who were making their way to Wichita as quickly as they could.
I had an uncontrollable crying jag. Don’t judge me.
My father should be wearing Wrangler jeans and his favorite blue hoodie, not a backless cotton gown
When we finally had a chance to see Dad, my brother told me I needed to be calm but he is not the boss of me, and I tried really hard but one look at my Daddy in a hospital bed and I was wrecked. This is the man who taught me how to drive a stick shift, makes me appreciate old-school country music, took me to my first rock concert, calls me Bub, taught me to 2-step, and spends his life making sure our little family stays close. Also, he gave me my siblings and though we can be a hot mess, we’re a hot mess together.
My Daddy needs to be on a riverbank with a pole in the water, or standing in his cowboy boots belting out Willie Nelson, George Strait and “Old Time Rock-n-Roll,” not having a doctor do Roto Rooter repair on his heart. Maybe that’s not what they do with busted up hearts, I don’t know, I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy two seasons ago.
In the past month he’s had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, remove a cataract from his eye and unblock his heart. Pretty soon he’ll show up to cookouts wearing a titanium suit. Robo-Dad.
Two days after the heart attack, my son turned 13. I have a teenager.
So now I find myself stuck in that place where my parents are getting older, and my children are getting older, and both these revelations break my heart in a million pieces. I need more time.
I haven’t learned enough from my Daddy. I haven’t taught enough to my son.
Call your parents. Hug your babies. Last week was another reminder to me that time is a relentless thief.
Oh, and because I know my brother will accuse me of ending this post on a low note – “Jeez, Dude, that was a frickin’ buzzkill,” – I’m happy to report that just one week after surgery, my Dad feels better than he has in months, and he’s looking forward to living to 150. So there’s that.
Hey, did I mention this happened on April Fool’s Day?
“I’m a healthy man. April Fools! Actually I’m having a heart attack & my heart is 99% blocked!” Well, played, Dad. Worst April Fool’s EVER!
— Dani Stone (@danimichelle) April 2, 2014