Last month I was asked to join a “Girls Week in Las Vegas!” to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday, a time she truly deserved to celebrate in high style, given the grief she has experienced lately. The party was on and the emails flew back and forth about shows and hotels and something about seeing THE “Pawn Stars” which I was completely ignorant of but was willing to go along. Good times ahead.
A few days before I was due to fly out, my mother called. Her younger brother, her only brother, was in the hospital. He needed bypass surgery but with only one lung and indolent lymphoma, he was a poor candidate for surgery. He insisted. 5 doctors told him “no” before the 6th agreed to even attempt it. His chances were slim, his heart completely blocked on one side, but the alternative was going home on oxygen to die. And for someone who lived his life commuting across the country every week? With a love of boats and motorcycles? Being hooked to a tank attached to the back of a wheelchair was not his idea of living.
He grabbed at his last chance. He made it through surgery. Barely. Despite my mother’s happy news that he had survived and was in the ICU on a ventilator, it was to be only for a few days. His body had had enough fighting and struggling and organ by organ, began shutting down. He died right before I landed in Las Vegas. There I stood in the airport, surrounded by everything that screams Good Times! and Vacation!, sad for my mother. She wouldn’t hang up until I promised I’d stay and celebrate with my friend, who so needed this time of joy, while she and my sister would make the long drive to Georgia for the funeral.
Fast forward to this month, when I get a call from my dad. He said, It’s nothing really, but I went for a checkup and the doctor thinks I have a bit of a blockage and I need to go to the hospital for an angiogram. They might give me medication for it, or stents, or maybe a bypass surgery. He quickly shished my worries, saying he was fine, he was in good hands and did I hear the one about the cardiologist? The man of 10,000 jokes was in his usual form, although he sounded rushed and oddly eager to get off the telephone.
He wasn’t in a hurry. He was terribly short of breath. He was sicker than he admitted to me. They found blockages and a bit more.
Tomorrow, he has open heart surgery thousands of miles from my home. His second wife will be with him. His three kids wish they could be.
And the day after, I board a plane for a scheduled trip, this time involving awards and celebration Job Well Done, a trip my husband deserves . I’m just praying that when I land, there is no phone call.