Ain’t Nothing but a Family Thing

8 July 2009

It was a charmed evening until I got the call.  My favorite date and I had lingered over a couple of cocktails and a cigar on one of my regular patios before cabbing a mile north for dinner at a frequent dining haunt.  It was a bit embarrassing as my out of town companion watched far too many people say hello to me before we could even get to a table (it’s just an industry thing.)

We had made our way through a couple of small plates and then I got a text message from my sister: Dad in the hospital with a blood clot behind the knee, call me, call him xxx-xxx-xxxx.

I excused myself as politely as anyone who had received that message could and went outside to call my old man.  We don’t talk often, and our conversation leaned more towards the clinical.

“What has the doctor told you?”

“How are you feeling?”

“What is the course of treatment?”

I say goodnight with the comfort that this is a “serious but routine” condition and that the drugs are the logical treatment.  I am distracted through the rest of dinner, my mind occupied with thoughts of Dad’s illness and how much it is going to cost me (you want to talk about the health care crisis in this country, bring it; because it’s draining my portfolio faster than I can make fun of Rachel Ray.)

Later the next morning, I get the call from a doctor informing me that “the clot has started to move; the pharmaceutical option is no longer feasible and we’ve scheduled emergency surgery for later today.”  I am assured that, just like the blood clot itself, the surgery is serious but routine.

I’ve woken from surgery to an empty chair next to me.  It’s more painful than the site of your incisions, and scarier than any demons I’ve faced.

As inconvenient (and unnecessary according to the docs) it was, I wasn’t going to let him wake alone.  As awkward as it was going to be sitting in a hospital room with a father with whom I have not had a good relationship in a more than a score of years, I had to make the drive.  As much as my feelings were conflicted, my choice was made.

My father was alone, and scared and wanted to be neither.  I was present and emotionally drained and didn’t have a choice about either.