Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You are never ready for this.

My brother said it happened just like he thought it would. The news would come by an early morning phone call from me.
About 45 minutes earlier, my phone rang at 3:30 a.m. It stopped before I got to it. I didn’t recognize the number on the caller id.
“Someone drunk dialed,” I thought.
I was almost back to sleep when it rang again. This time the call was coming from my parent’s house. It was my mom.
“Annie, I don’t want you to panic, but the ambulance just took your dad to the hospital.”
I hung up and went for the closet.
“What do you wear at 4’o clock in the morning to the hospital?”
I was panicked, I was scared, and I didn’t know what to wear. I paced back and forth a few times in the closet before I pulled myself together enough to reach for an argyle sweater and pair of jeans.
I started making phone calls in the car on the way to my mom’s to pick her up; my sister in New Castle, first, then my brother. I decided to wait to call my sister in Boston. Not much she could do from there.
Mom was waiting at the door when I got to her house. On the way to hospital she told me that dad woke up with chest pains, numbness in his left arm, and shortness of breath, all the classic signs of a heart attack. He took an aspirin then he woke up my mom.
By the time we got to the cardiac unit, Dad was already wearing a light green hospital gown with tubes and wires as accessories. I’d seen him like this a couple years before in the emergency room, when a dog in the back of a truck reached out and took a chunk out of his arm as he passed it in a parking lot.
My older brother, on the other hand, had never seen my dad looking so vulnerable. I could see it on his face, my brother was scared. I’m sure all the times dad had rescued us ran through his mind. Now it was my dad’s turn to be rescued.
Before 10 a.m., my mom, brother, sister, brother-in-law and I surrounded my dad’s hospital bed. We thought that we were being strong. We thought that we were doing a good job of hiding our fear and concern. I knew it made him uncomfortable to have us all staring at him like that, but-true to form-my dad talked and joked with us to show us that he was going to be okay.
The worst of it seemed to be over by the time he got to the hospital. He felt so much better that he began to regret going. By mid-day it looked as if dad would be staying overnight, just as a precaution.
Mom and I headed home for a nap. I didn’t make it all the way up to my room. I just took off my shoes and lay down on the couch.
Less than an hour later, my tearful mom was on the phone again. The blood tests confirmed that he, indeed, had a heart attack and the doctor wanted to do an angioplasty as soon as possible.
This time I didn’t stop to consider my appearance.
My mom and I didn’t say much on the way back to the hospital. I knew I should talk to her. I knew I should say something. I knew I shouldn’t let her sit there and cry and stew over what could happen, but I didn’t know what to say. I begrudged being the youngest at that moment. My older sister in Boston would be much better suited for supporting my mom when she needed it the most.
I said the only thing I could think of. I told mom that we couldn’t let dad see us scared. He was going to be scared enough without having to worry about us. I said it more for me than for her.
We had just a few minutes to talk to him before they came to take him down for what would be an hour- long procedure.
I wonder if doctors ever get tired of people thanking them. I wonder if saving lives eventually becomes passé. When the doctor came in the waiting room to tell her how the procedure went, my mom thanked him as if he had just given her a hundred Christmas presents with a hundred shiny red bows. My dad - got a brand new stint in the front of his heart to keep his artery open.
Later that night, Mom, Dad, and I watched “Dancing with the Stars” together in his hospital room. That jilted bachelorette turned out to be really good. Dad had to lie really still for the next few hours, some of the longest of his life.
His life. Dad’s life.
My dad didn’t die on March 16th.
The time for fear is over. Now, it’s just a time for gratitude. So, to celebrate my dad’s life, we had a barbeque. We called it the “Barbeque-not-a-Funeral-Barbeque.”
Dad had chicken.


  1. Oh Annie I am so glad that story has a happy ending!!!! I hope you and your family get to have a million more “Barbeque-not-a-Funeral-Barbeques"!

  2. Every time the phone rings at an unusual hour of the night I dread answering it for fear of something like this.
    When my Dad's older brother died I suddenly realized that my parents are not as young as they used to be, and our time together is limited. We have probably had more time together than we have left. I want to enjoy the time that I have.
    I'm glad your Dad is okay.

  3. It's so scary when the phone rings in the middle of the night. I'm glad your father is ok!

  4. We just went through the same with my dad. He is a proud new owner of a stint, and a new look on life:) He gets another stint next week.

    So happy your Dad is around for the BBQ!

  5. I know we need little wake-up calls every now and then. But, dang it! They are so scary!

  6. I was preparing myself for a sad ending, and I was sad for you...

    But I am so grateful for a happy ending! (((HUGS!)))

  7. I was scared for a minute there. Thank God dad is ok. Here's to many more wonderful years.

  8. I'm so very glad that everything has turned out well!

    My dad had an angioplasty and didn't tell anyone... Accept the golden child Kerry (who is a doctor) I'm glad you were there with him and was able to support him. ((((((((((Hugs))))))))))

  9. I am glad your father is ok. I dread the though of one of my parents getting sick like that. All my life they have been there and I can't imagine them not being there even though I know that some day it will happen.

  10. Thanks for sharing your story. Made me cry.

  11. My heart goes out to you and your parents. With hopes that your dad will continue to recover nicely. Like how your having a babeque to celebrate him and life.

  12. I'm so glad that everything turned out well. We need our daddies.

  13. I'm so glad it all turned out well for your family.

    Those late night calls are HORRIBLE.

  14. I was just throwing in laundry this morning wondering how your dad is. I'm glad he's getting better. :)

  15. I talked to your Dad on Sunday...couldn't believe he was there, but happy to see him. I'm so glad the ending was a fun barbeque. Talk to ya soon!

  16. What a writer you are! Great post, not great subject. I am glad for your ending...... continued good luck and good health to Pops!

  17. You are strong, and so is your dad. Don't forget that!! We are all here for you (and for those BBQ's!)

  18. Whoa that is some heavy stuff. I love the name of your BBQ. Very classy.

    You know being the oldest doesn't really mean you KNOW what to say. It just means that you are used to being the ONE saying whatever. I have full faith that you said and did the very thing your mom needed.

    Glad it all turned out well.

  19. my dad had a heart attack years ago, he had open heart surgery and it was so scary.
    but today he is doing well- for an old guy.
    and i love your dads attitude.
    i know that awful feeling of seeing your father lying there in a hospital bed pale and all hooked up....last time i did that, i tried to be strong then cried all the way home...from arizona to utah- it was a real long cry.
    glad your pop is doing well.
    enjoy him and your mom.
    enjoy every minute.

  20. I was holding my breath reading through your post. Then let out a happy sigh at the ending. Glad y'all got to have a barbeque to celebrate.

  21. Poor family :( I'm so sorry. What a scary time.

    I'm so glad it turned out as well as it did.

  22. So glad your dad is doing well!!

  23. I'm so glad your dad is alright now!!!

  24. Annie, I went through almost exactly the same thing with my Mom...only Dad called right after Friends and I assumed it was Mom calling to discuss. As soon as I heard my dad's voice crack I realized something was up...I made it to St. Mary's before the ambulance with Mom arrived. It is very humbling and extremely scary to see a parent in such a vulnerable place. I am so thankful that your dad is doing well...and thanks for posting this. I'm sure it was cathartic.

  25. My own heart skipped a beat as I began reading. What a relief that all is well and that he is still eating chicken. Each day is a blessing.

  26. I'm glad you posted this so I could read it. Stupid Daily Sentinel!! We really have the best Dad ever!! That was the most scared I have ever been in a long time. Thanks for being the big sister and being there for Mom you are a rock!!

  27. Annie - I am sorry to hear you went through all this. I got this exact same call 3 years ago. Except my dad was 1000 miles away. I dropped everything and took the baby and flew to Seattle for 2 weeks to be there for his sextuple bypass surgery.

    I am glad that your dad made it through and was doing well. Your story brought back SO MANY memories!!!!!


    He's healthy and looking to terrorize scofflaws this side of the Colorado border with his trusty sidekick, Mike The Headless Chicken.

  29. oh annie. i'm glad your daddy is okay. how scary for you and your family. xxoo

  30. I'm sorry I'm so late getting here and reading this account. I'm so very grateful that your dad is okay!


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