My parents stopped over one evening last week. They paid the appropriate amount of attention to the dog first, then got to the point of the visit. Mom asked if I was busy at work.
“Yes,” I said. “I mean, sometimes. One week I’m overwhelmed and the next, not so much.”
Then it occurred to me to be suspicious. “Why?”
“Dad’s having surgery on Friday.”
I looked at my dad. I looked at his foot. He’s been wearing one of those boots for foot injuries lately. (Long story.)
“Not on his foot,” my mom said. “He’s having a parathyroid gland removed.” (Believe it or not, this is related to the foot. Another long story.)
“So,” my dad said, “we were wondering if you could take us to the hospital on Friday for my surgery.”
Details were then shared. It was actually considered a minor surgery. Shouldn’t take long. I could probably be back to work by lunch time. I would have to reschedule a conference call to make it work, but I said I thought I could manage it. My dad said if I couldn’t get out of work, they could ask my brother. Apparently he only works until 10:30 on Friday mornings.
I promised to do my best to work things out and would call them from work the next day. As they left, I wondered two things. Why did they ask me to drive? My mom can drive and she’s familiar with the hospital. And if my brother only works a few hours on Friday anyway, why hadn’t they asked him? But I didn’t ask. My parents had asked me. They must have had their reasons.
I was able to rearrange my work day. Promised my boss I’d be in as soon as I could get my parents back home again and I’d work half a day. I called my parents to let them know. They were happy.
Friday morning, I picked up my parents and we headed downtown, earlier than I usually leave for work. We checked my dad in at 6:45 a.m. Then the checker-inner person said that my dad should go to pre-op and my mom should accompany him. I should go to the surgical waiting room and expect to see my mom in a half hour or so.
Two hours later, my mom joined me and my dad was taken in for surgery. She said they had to do all kinds of things related to all of his various heart and diabetic and kidney conditions. They had to ask him all kinds of questions before he was finally ready for surgery. We didn’t expect it to be very long, but two more hours passed before the surgeon came out to tell my mom that all went well and my dad was in recovery. He said Dad would be in recovery about an hour. The pager they’d assigned us would flash when my dad was moved to a room and it was okay to go join him.
An hour passed and we were not paged. My mom went to check in with the checker-inner desk people. A man there said they were very busy and that my dad had not yet been moved to a room. He said my dad was in line behind one other person, but neither could be moved until some other people were moved out for surgery. I asked if he thought it might be a half hour? An hour? More? He really had no idea. He promised our pager would flash as soon as we could see my dad. I sensed a case of serious surgical over-booking. I emailed work and told them I might not be in at all.
Two and a half hours passed. We were hungry, but avoided going to the cafeteria because we kept thinking, “Any minute now…” We spent the time talking about this, that and everything.
My mom mentioned that she had planned to just take my dad to the hospital on her own, but that Dad had insisted they should ask one of their kids to accompany them. My dad said he wanted to ask me. My mild annoyance at having to rearrange my work schedule melted when I learned this. I half smiled at the realization that Dad had insisted on me. My mom had been perfectly willing to manage this on her own, but my dad had been telling others that Mom wasn’t comfortable driving downtown and that was why they had asked me to drive them. Mom wasn’t thrilled, but I thought it was kind of cute.
“Dad’s always been a sucker when it comes to you,” Mom said.
“Well, he has to be,” I said. “I gave him a body part.”
“Yes, but even before that,” Mom said.
“Yes he has. You were always his little darling.”
I had trouble swallowing this. I guess when I think back to childhood, I tend to remember the tough times, the teenage years when I couldn’t seem to do anything right and when doing wrong meant suffering through one of Dad’s interminable lectures in the kitchen. And believe me, I got my share of lectures. But once I began to think past those times, I told my mom that I did remember Dad giving “horsey” rides on his leg while he sat at the kitchen table. I remember climbing up on his lap and asking for a sip of his beer. He always said yes. I remember him stretched out on the living room couch in the evenings and letting me snuggle up next to him, resting in the crook of his arm while we watched Adam 12 or Emergency!
Maybe he did have a soft-spot for me. Funny how I never believed it. And about this time, it occurred to me to start worrying. My dad’s minor procedure had now taken us long past the point of when we expected to be going home. Mom checked on him again at 2:30 and they finally told us that Dad was in a room and we could go see him.
He didn’t look like he’d just had a minor procedure. He looked like he was in pain. He looked slightly out of it. And he was very nauseous and vomiting frequently. I was worried, but there was a nice nurse there who helped him get comfortable.
At 3:30, it was clear that my dad was not leaving soon. Having eaten only a half a granola bar and a fun-size candy bar all day, I was hungry. I asked my mom if she wanted something to eat. She admitted she was hungry too, so I went to the cafeteria to get us some sandwiches and chips. We left the room again for a bit while the nurse took care of my dad. We ate at a leisurely pace and talked some more. She said she was glad that Dad had insisted on me taking them to the hospital. It would have been a very long day had she been all alone all that time. We saw Dad’s surgeon leaving for the day and he waved goodbye to us as he headed for the elevators. Finally, after 5:00, my dad was released. And while I was happy we could finally go home, I was nervous. My dad insisted on bringing his barf-bag along for the car ride and I prayed all the way home through rush hour traffic that he wouldn’t have to use it because if anyone barfs in my presence, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be joining in the festivities.
Luck was on our side. We got home barf-free and my dad was feeling better by the next day. And I never did make it in to work, but it didn’t really matter to me anymore.