You always think you have a handle on your own mortality, until one day you realize that you have been totally bullshitting yourself.
My dad had a SURPRISE! heart attack the night of February 25th, 2010. Thankfully he had my mom take him to the ER, where they immediately rushed him in for an angiogram. My mom called me in the wee hours of the morning and I met her at the hospital, wanting to cry, but defaulting to my ‘fear mode’, which is mostly take over, boss everyone around, and feed everyone.
Dad’s heart attack was a surprise because he was always healthy. He worked out, he swam, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t eat particularly fatty or unhealthy foods, and he’d always had good blood pressure. Dad’s angio wasn’t good, and the talented Cardiology team laid it out for us all plainly; despite shockingly healthy outward appearance, he was very sick. Might-need-the-left-ventricle-of-his-heart-replaced-with-a-gizmo sick. Maybe even die-on-the-table-unless-he-gets-an-artificial-heart, and needs-a-heart-transplant sick.
It was a ‘holy shit’ moment, to say the least. The shock didn’t wear off; instead I diverted my attention with my other favorite coping mechanism- LEARN ALL THE THINGS. While my parents were airlifted to San Francisco to the nearest transplant center, I began my mission to learn everything I would need to help my father when he got home. I never entertained that he would die, and he didn’t. His recovery was unprecedented! He was discharged from the hospital on March 9th after a quintuple bypass. It was like we’d all been given the greatest gift ever- now that he was home we could exhale and admit we really were afraid he was going to die. We were safe!
And then he died. I don’t mean his heart disease eventually killed him, I mean I left his house after 11pm on March 10th and my mom discovered him dead on the couch around 8 in the morning of March 11th. Everything was a waste- we’d come through it all and it hadn’t mattered. None of my heart healthy recipes, or even the plans he’d excitedly told me about while I finished the dishes up on that fateful Wednesday were ever going to happen.
The shock and pain from the ordeal has never left me. In my personal timeline it is the point where my life split into divergent paths. Everything in 2010, and much of 2011 was a struggle, and in the back of my head, a little nagging voice kept pointing out that he was only 58, and I was nearing the ‘half-way’ point of his life. It could happen to you, the little voice said. But it was so small. It was easily drowned out by all the activities of my daily life and the challenges that seemed to pop up left and right.
Finally, after 2 years, I started 2012 awash in change. I had moved into a new place in the heart of downtown Reno, shaken up my living arrangements, found a new job- hell I’d even changed cell phone plans!
But we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men…
(to be contd)