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My world was very nearly rocked in the worst possible way …

It was February 4th, my mom’s birthday, falling exactly two weeks before my birthday earlier this year. Tina and I had just returned home from an afternoon out and about taking our mom to and fro for celebratory birthday fun. I sat at my desk, Tina in the chair at my side chatting over this and then that. My cell phone rang. Doodle! (My dad- once asked him if he’d ever had a nickname to which he answered “no”, and well, he’s been “Doodle” ever since.) “Hola!” I answered. “Hi, honey, I … think you need to come get me. I think I’m having a heart attack.” I crumpled, voice wavering,“We’re on the way.” Click.

Standing, grabbing the purse still at my feet, repeating the dialogue to Bean just as there was a knock at the front door. Shane. Bean opened the door with the words “We need to take our dad to the hospital, he thinks he’s having a heart attack.” A fine how-do-ya-do there, though, Shane being the ball of awesome that he is, seamlessly countered with “Deborah, do you want me to drive?” as Bean gathered her things. “Yes, please,” I choked out, tears already streaming down my cheeks as I walked forward on knees quaking, liquified with terror. We ran to the car, as I dialed my dad back, dumbfounded that I’d been stupid enough to hang up in the first place. He answered. Still dad. Still there. In pulling up to his house, he walked out, normal as could be, a faint closed-mouth smile even. He sat down in the backseat, patting my hand, a gesture of comfort for me, for goodness’ sake, as he attempted to answer our barrage of questions.

In the ER, we stood second in line to check in, a glance at the waiting room revealing a nearly packed house complete with an ever-wailing toddler. Entertained the idea of reaching across the desk and clasping the collar of the woman on duty in want- in need– of her attention, as I felt every second in passing, fearful of their impact on my dad’s life. There was a time I’d have done so without a thought otherwise, but frustration quickly evaporated leaving only desperate tears and I barely contained myself in bringing her up to speed once our turn arrived. We were told to have a seat, someone would be with us shortly. Sit, we did, but soon my dad’s face tensed and he said the pain was intensifying. Quickly back at the desk, I croaked out the words, “Please, my dad says the pain’s stronger …” and she then motioned us back.

We sat on chairs out in the hallway while our gowned dad was wheeled into room 8. My fear was palpable. For every dozen thoughts that ran through my mind, one slipped from my lips as I tried to reconcile what was happening with the very best and worst possible outcomes. Kept overhearing chatter at the nearby desk and nervously wondered aloud about its relevancy while Bean repeated that it was nothing, don’t worry, everything was gonna be fine. Knew very well that I was being pacified and though I prefer hard ugly truth over blissful unawareness 9.99 times out of 10, I longed to believe what Tina spoke out loud over the panic that threatened to consume my every thought.

Then, a nurse, in speaking to another, said it, “The patient in room 8 is having a heart attack.” Workers began rushing into his room. Bean’s till-then calm features sank with worry and I’ll never forget how the image I was fixed on as my rock- her face- changed to reflect what I’d been struggling with all along in my mind. Felt like I fell hard and no one caught me. Bean hurriedly rushed out to the waiting room to collect Shane, returning as we were all ushered into room 8. There’s my dad fully alert and cracking jokes and charming the nurses- the women folk- as he does, while he was prepped to undergo an angioplasty, a procedure that allows the clearing of blocked arteries. Even now, I marvel at what peace it brought me for that moment seeing him still just being … him amidst such a terrifying situation.

Sitting in that waiting room waiting for the results of what my dad was undergoing was a different story, nothing less than sheer hell, facing the possibility that the one person who more or less, knows me inside and out for the better of it, the only one who sees me, would be, could already be, forever gone, was truly a worst fear realized. I ached for someone to hold me, to be buried in until news arrived. A vision of Sweetums alone, an oversized and gruff Muppet (Lord, I know), came to mind. The thought that “one does not need to feel faith, but only have it” rang through my head, and I pondered how that was to be put into practice in the present situation. Had a brief and intense conversation with God in which I told him that a Muppet clearly wasn’t gonna cut it, could He please send me someone already, alive, a tangability. When the cardiologist arrived with the happy news of a successful procedure, I asked if I could hug him, neglecting the wait of an answer and nearly bowled him over with a massive one and surely would’ve climbed him like a tree had he been any taller.

In the nights to follow after returning home from a constant vigil during the day in the ICU, I was thrilled to respond to varying emails, of all things, as it provided me with a most desired stabilizing normalcy. In the passing weeks, I neglected to share the news of what had occurred with the closest of friends mostly because many had their own set of difficult circumstances to be dealt with at the time, and furthermore, simply put, sharing it made it real. You know? With June came my dad’s birthday as well as Father’s Day and with them, all those pushed down and temporarily squelched fears of potential loss reared up to be dealt with, compounded by time, and they really did their number on me for a stretch there.

The best of updates, my dad’s been an exemplary patient! Instituting exercise and dietary changes, employing a most stellar attitude, through an example of perseverance, he’s built my hope in places where others have tried their best to tear it down this year. His doctors are astounded with the healing he’s received and rave of his accomplishments. I tell you, there’s not enough pride displayed in the whole flippin’ parade to encompass the amount I feel in calling him my father. My dad. And, of course, the fairly funny part lies in the fact that he had a heart attack on his ex-wife’s birthday. Le haha. Oh, and guess what I arrived to find that following morning of his first night in the intensive care unit? The RN had nicknamed him “Sweetums.”

Sweetums Written On Whiteboard


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