I get the call at noon from a family friend "Your father is in the emergency room, they think it's a heart attack." I cry and tell myself not to fall apart yet, I still have to be useful, I have to call family, I have to get myself to the hospital 3 hours away. I am also not surprised to get the call, my father eats a lot of butter - like half a stick at a time, with cheese. History of heart disease. Blah blah. All the rhetoric falls to the wayside, yammering away as we speed to the ICU.
My friend Kate is driving. I am crying silently or making small talk, in turns. She offers me a squashed roll of toilet paper. At this point, while driving, we don't know what is going on. He was awake as they took him to do tests. They think it is a heart attack. He was dizzy, throwing up, had chest pains. But he is still awake.
When I get to the hospital they tell me I got there fast but it seemed to take forever. My father's wife cries when I touch her, the new baby sleeps in her lap. I have a little sister, she is one year old.
They take us in to see my father, he is naked and wrapped in white blankets, like the day he came, only I wasn't there that day.
Today my father is covered in little foil tabs that are hooked up to machines that click and beep and whirr and buzz, they are keeping time, my father's time. Through the oxygen mask he tells us he is ok, it is over, he will be fine. The nurse says he is very lucky.
My father is very tired. Very tired.
They show me a map of his arteries, one of them was 100% clogged. Massive heart attack they say, and I feel one of my own coming on at the word "massive." On the map is the stent they put in to open the flow. 0% obstruction is the new diagnosis. But on the map I can see other arteries and other obstructions: 90%, 85%, 40%, 40%, 45%.
They fixed the one that was breaking his heart, but there are others waiting in ambush. How terrible, I think, to be attacked by one's own heart.
"I wasn't supposed to have a heart attack." He says.
No dad. Nobody is.
This is a map of my father's life:
And this is the screen that tells us he is still alive:
And this is the little girl he just brought into the world:
And this is me, just words in vacuum.