Yesterday, I received a call out of the blue from my mother. I thought she was just checking up on her new granddaughter, but I was wrong.
“Your father’s in the hospital,” she began. “He’s had a heart attack.”
I just sat there, stunned, the phone tucked under my ear and my daughter in my arms. “What?” I said.
“He had a heart attack, but he’s okay,” my mother answered.
How can he be okay? I thought, my mind racing. He had a fucking heart attack! That’s the very god damned definition of “not okay!”
Yesterday afternoon my father was suddenly struck with incredible chest pain. My mother demonstrated incredibly quick thinking in that she immediately gave him an aspirin and then rushed him to the hospital, where my parents found out that one of my father’s arteries was nearly fully occluded, requiring hospital staff to rush him into surgery and insert a stent in order to repair the damage. He’s resting comfortably now and will be in the hospital for several days for observation and recovery, but it’s going to be several weeks until he can return to any semblance of his old level of activity.
Truth be told, my father isn’t exactly a spring chicken; he’ll turn 64 this October. Still, no one saw this coming, simply because my father is one of the most physically fit people I know. Slim and tall, with most of his hair still untouched by grey save for his beard and mustache, he looks closer to 55 than 65, and he spends the majority of his time outside installing and maintaining lawn sprinklers for a living. I saw him just a few days ago and he seemed completely fine.
Why do people always say that? “I just saw him!” As if coming into close personal contact with someone inoculates them from harm for a few months or something. It says more about ourselves than anything else: our close proximity with potential tragedy lifts the scales from our eyes and we see all too clearly how fragile life can be sometimes. In my father’s case, we seem to have been lucky; between my mother dosing him with aspirin in a timely manner and the relatively low severity of the heart attack itself, my father’s prognosis is very good. He’s going to have to re-evaluate his levels of physical activity – maybe he shouldn’t be working six days a week for nine months out of the year any more. For someone previously so active, a shift this fundamental is more than likely going to be a difficult one for him, but I’d rather he be here in order to make the change than not at all.
Still, getting that phone call was an absolutely harrowing experience. They say you become an adult the moment you’re confronted with the nearly unavoidable fact that there’s a very, very good chance you’re going to outlive your parents; I have to disagree. I’d never felt more like a lost, frightened child than I have in my entire life.