When Those You Love Are Human

“Daughter, don’t want you to worry, but I am at the VA hospital. The doctors are saying I had a heart attack, but I am just hungry and should be going home in a few days.”

Friends, yes, that was the actual phone call from my Dad Monday morning. If you know my father, then you can appreciate how he tends to deliver bad news. Every delivery leaves you wondering what just happened. This is the man that broke the news of his prostate cancer with “um, daughter, they saying I got this cancer thing in my prostate, but I’ll let them cut it out and be back at it in a few weeks.” This same man sat at home in heart failure without going to the hospital for several days because he thought his shortness of breath was “just pneumonia.”

As I processed my dad’s words, my heart immediately began to race and thoughts of him in a hospital bed very ill flashed through my mind. I could suddenly feel the tension and anxiety level in my body beginning to rise…starting in my toes. Every muscle in my body became stiff and my chest felt as if someone punched me square in the middle of it as hard as they could. Before long, I could hear my heart beating in my ears and my dad’s voice sounded so far away. Tears began to roll down my face and all I could say was “I’m on my way.”

As I type this post, I am sitting at my father’s bed side in the ICU wondering how I can rewind the hands of time. I sit here also wondering how did we even get here, when we talked a day earlier and he sounded like his funny, strong, sarcastic self. I sit at his bed side today acknowledging a reality I thought I would never face. I DEEPLY love a human, and not an immortal super hero. 

As long as I could remember, my dad has been magical in my eyes…invincible if you will. For me, my dad represents strength, courage, protection, intelligence, and the epitome of the traditional man. In my eyes, my father can do no wrong. While I acknowledge he is not perfect by ANY stretch of the imagination, he has always been my protector, hero, and one of my biggest supporters. I remember in grad school calling him after a horrible exam asking if I was “good enough” to really make it in my chosen profession. He gave me his hearty signature laugh and responded “daughter, if George Busch can graduate both Yale and Harvard, you can survive grad school. You got this.” I remember when I was 7 years old and stepped on a nail. The doctors told my mom they might have to amputate my foot because of the damage from the nail. I screamed and told the doctor “you take my foot, my father will kill everyone in this room”…and I meant that. 

See, my life has ALWAYS involved my father being there for good, bad, and scary moments. Like a super hero, he always managed to show up at my weakest point and knew exactly what was needed to help me make it through. So, like a super hero I have ALWAYS believed he would be around for everything. Sadly though, my dad is no super hero…he can’t be here forever.  Like a human, he will age and one day have to leave this earth…things that just simply never occurred to me until his call on Monday. But, despite my inability to see those things, the aging process is happening. It seems that I blinked and somehow my dad aged without my awareness. In my mind, he has always been this young man accompanying me to Doctor appointments, throwing my kids high in the air to get a good giggle, and the comforting pat on my back when he sees fear in my eyes that others mistake for defiance. But today, today I sit next to a sleeping, noticeably thinner, aging man that I am praying God will allow me to have a little while longer. 

For three days before his heart attack my father called my phone over 5 times a day. Because I was under the weather, I sent his calls to voice mail and told myself “I’ll call him when I am up to talking.” But, Sunday evening my father called me a little voice inside said “you better answer that. He won’t always be here and when he is gone you will wish you answered those calls.” So, I picked up the phone, talked, laughed, said I love you and hung up to go to bed. Hours later, he was admitted to the hospital after having suffered a heart attack and in heart failure.

Having the blinders lifted and coming to terms with the “humanness” of my father has taught me a lesson. We HAVE to appreciate the people we love. We can never be too sick or too busy for those we love. The next minute is not promised for mere mortals. 

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