My dear friends,
I need to share with you some reflections and, as is increasingly the case, request your prayers. Remember, as much as this blog represents an opportunity for me to document my kids’ life for them it is also a place of spiritual reflection and prayer requests.
On Friday morning (following from my most recent post) I boarded my flight to Newark to visit my family back home. The flight was quite decent. The airline I chose (they fly out of Love Field and have an open seating policy) actually provided a very pleasant flight experience. And I learned that I can indeed handle the take off and landing cycle. I hadn’t slept the night before. Miraculously (and completely out of character for me) I slept on the flight. I say “out of character” because I’m always afraid I’ll miss my stop. After a brief stop in New Orleans where all but 19 of us deplaned and I was then able to move up to the third row of our 737; I caught a few hours of very interrupted sleep as we turbulently glided our way into the Fatherland. My sister picked me up and we headed to her house.
My dear sister… First, let me tell you that God has blessed me very richly with many gifts. “One” of those gifts is the treasure that is my 8 sisters. One of these, my dear twin sister, went home to God when we were only 4 years-old. Of the remaining 7 ladies I have been privileged to be on the receiving end of their love, encouragement, protection, and support over my entire life. In a particular way, my next older sister and my next younger living sister (the baby of the family) have been, with me, like an inseparable trio our whole lives. It is the former sister’s home (to which I arrived) where I spent so many years, happy days and many long nights drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes while singing to Donna Summer or watching political talk shows. Hey, it was our thing. We came into the house and our dad was there. He had stayed behind to watch the kids while she came to the airport to collect me. My dear old dad is a wonderful man. We never had the kind of “classic” father-son relationship. There were no long hours in the backyard tossing around a pigskin. No, our bonding took place in the vast volume of knowledge he transmitted to me, in our common love of a good cocktail (later in life for me), and in the gift of devotion to our Catholic faith that he embodied my entire life.
We spent last night doing what we’ve done so many Friday nights before in my sister’s house. We sat down and watched a movie. In this case it was an old family favorite — the Anne Bancroft written 1980 dark comedy Fatso starring Dom Deluise (and Bancroft). We laughed very hard, all of us (my mom, my sister’s husband – who was also one of my two best men at my wedding, and my niece) shouting out lines from the film.
And then Mom and Dad got up to head out and go home. But something was wrong. Moments after walking out to the car Dad came running back in. You need to know that the old man is just that. He’d call himself middle aged because to him “old age begins 15 years older than whatever age I am”. He’s 78. Although he’s in relatively good shape, he’s had some major issues over the years. Let’s see, Type II diabetes at 38 (got that under control), gall bladder removed, massive stroke (miraculous recovery), and prostate cancer — all in his 50’s — and bypass surgery in his late 60’s. He had caught a bad cold earlier in the week. Still he seemed pretty much OK this day. But the man ran back in. “Have to use the bathroom” he said as he continued his sprint up the stairs. A moment later he came back down and headed back out. And then… two minutes later we got a call from my older sister with whom my parents live around the corner. “Dad’s having trouble breathing, he’s sweating, something’s not right. We’re taking him to the ER.”
I turned to my sister and almost didn’t have to say it. “I’m here now. I have to go over there.” You see, two years ago on this date my father-in-law died suddenly of a heart attack. It might seem illogical and there is definitely nothing I can do about it; but since that time I have worried that something terrible would happen and I wouldn’t be hear for it. I was happy for my wife and our kids (and most especially for dear Wilma, my mother-in-law) that we could be there for my father-in-law’s last year on this earth and that we’ve been there for her and for my sister-in-law and her son and for my brother-in-law, his wife, and their kids in the aftermath. But I’ve been scared that I wouldn’t be there when the time came for Dad. And now on that anniversary I found myself staring down that fear. Well, it was just the ER. I can handle that. I had my brother-in-law drop me. It was just after midnight. My older sister and her husband were with Dad when I walked in and they were just getting ready to take him back. The doctor spoke with us. I took the doctor into the hall and said “Tell me honestly, what are you thinking?” He looked at me. “Well, he’s presenting with all the signs of a heart attack. We need to keep him for further tests.”
I won’t bore you with all the details. But, within an hour my dad was asleep in the ER and I had been dropped off back at my sister’s house. But I didn’t feel right leaving him like that. In short order, my sister and I were headed back. Remember, I’m still recovering from my own surgery. But there we were. He was wide awake and not looking too happy when we walked in but his eyes lit up. His children had come back to sit with him. We spent the night in the ER with him. They finally admitted him early this morning. And yes, the doctor assured me, the blood test indicated that he had suffered a heart attack at some point in the past three weeks.
So that’s where we are. In one day I celebrated the memory of my father-in-law, the man I affectionately dubbed “Marigold”, and wondering if I would be saying good bye to my own father. Lots of emotions came over me. He seems OK now but will probably have to have a catheterization performed. I may have to extend my stay by a day or so. And what I ask of you all right now is prayers for my dad. My kids have already said goodbye to one grandfather. I don’t presume to know the will of God but I hate to think He wants them that shortchanged so soon in life.
Other than that, I’m enjoying my time here. It would be nice, however, to get a few solid hours of sleep.