Thursday found me and my 18-year-old son wandering the halls of the hospital’s cardiac care unit. My father had arrived via ambulance six hours earlier.
We both must have had that lost puppy look because a nurse asked us who we were looking for and then told me my dad had just arrived and gave me his room number.
We walked into my dad’s room to find my mother, sister, and a nurse helping him settle into his room. He looked much better than I expected, which lowered my anxiety a notch.
Ever since my dad had a major heart attack when I was 23, I’ve feared that one of these days his badly damaged heart would finally decide it had enough. Watching him smiling at Tom went a long way in reassuring me that today was probably not that day.
There is so much about growing older that I love. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what people think of me, and I am more forgiving of myself and others.
What I don’t relish is that the people I love and have counted on my whole life are starting to leave.
I lost a dear aunt and uncle, two people who were important in my extended family. My parents’ group of friends is shrinking, and I can’t help but wonder when it will be my turn to write a eulogy and find old pictures to celebrate their life.
My sister looked exhausted. She had driven dad to his doctor’s appointment that day and was present when he passed out and the doctor called for an ambulance to rush him to the emergency room.
I admired how calm she stayed as she called my mother, sister, and me to let us know what was going on. And I appreciated how she and my mom told me not to worry about coming to the hospital since there wasn’t anything I could do, and he seemed much better.
But I also knew I had to be there. Just in case it turned out to be more serious than the medicine change the doctors thought may have caused his blood pressure to drop to a dangerous level.
As Tom was answering my family’s questions about how his first few weeks in college were going, I couldn’t help but think that I was his age when my grandfather went to the hospital for something similar and never came home.
I teared up as my dad and Tom talked. The two of them are so close. Tom’s face tried to hide the fact that he was terrified about losing his grandfather.
Since my dad was settled and I was there to keep him company, my mom and sister decided to go home. As they left a young nurse came for his admittance interview.
“What would you like the staff to call you?”
“Dad come on let’s not give her a hard time,” I said as my father and son laughed.
“Warren. His name is Warren,” I answered. Then I gave my dad a look I typically reserve for my children when they are acting like, well, children.
“Are there any religious or cultural rituals you adhere to?”
I quickly looked over and saw my dad trying to come up with a clever answer. My son was waiting to see what he would say.
“Daddy don’t do it,” I said, laughing. Then turned to the nurse who was now joining in with the merriment.
“No, there are none.” Then I looked back at my dad.
“I was trying to come up with a good answer, Kath.”
“Yes, I know. Come on be good.”
The interview proceeded like this for the next ten minutes, and an older nurse put her head in.“You guys are having too much fun in here,” she said, with a smile.
As the young nurse finished the interview, my son looked over to me.
“Mom, dad just texted me. Lizzy has been singing a song about mashed potatoes for twenty minutes in the hospital lobby.”
My dad laughed in the way he usually does at my special needs daughter’s shenanigans. I quickly decided that Joe had more than fulfilled his “Best Husband” status by coming home early, driving me to the hospital and entertaining Lizzy and our 12-year-old. I knew they all must be exhausted. It was time to leave.
I hugged my dad, not really wanting to let go. “Please don’t die yet. But if you do, please watch over me, I could use all the help I can get.”
He hugged me again and laughed. “OK, you got it, Kath.” And with that Tom and I left.
My father came home yesterday and despite having to now worry about how much potassium is in everything he eats, is doing just fine. I gave him a call today and told him I was very glad he didn’t leave us.
“Kathy, you know, it’s coming. I’m not going to be here forever.”
And I do know that. I’m just really glad I have him now.