You are my one dad. A person I can spend weeks with and not feel a twinge of annoyance. A man I admire and love purely. You make me laugh like a kookaburra whenever I see you, your jokes so awful and funny at the same time. As a kid, I thought you were the smartest person in the world. I still respect your intellect. Theobromine. You were the only one who knew the answer.
I remember slipping my little girl hand into yours--big and dry and safe. You made me feel valuable and capable and like I could do things in life. You were gentle and fair when I was young, as you are with my children. They adore you. Grandpa, Grandpa, Grandpa! You give them tractor rides and play games and let them pick your potatoes and pumpkins.
And then this weekend your heart betrayed you. Even typing those words, I have to wipe my face and blow my nose on scratchy coffee shop napkins. You were gardening and when you stood, you felt pain that was your heart gasping for blood and oxygen it wasn't getting.
You and mom were wise to drive to the hospital right away. That night I went to bed, knowing you'd had chest pains and were there in a room hooked to monitors. I hoped you weren't anxious or lonely.
The next morning, mom called at 7:30, waking me out of a light sleep to tell me your chest pains had, indeed, been a full blown heart attack and that it was likely still happening.
Nervous, I called your room, but you were unconscious by then, your arteries being probed and widened. The nurse had moved you ahead of everyone else in line that day to get a heart catheter, and for that we will always be grateful.
I checked flights. Miraculously, I had enough miles to fly to Michigan. But J. was succumbing to a painful virus he'd rather I not name. It was a bad time for me to leave. When I got you on the phone later that afternoon, you were still a little drugged, but your usual whip-smart, coherent self. I missed you. I missed mom and Carrie. I wanted to be in it with you all. J. encouraged me to go, despite how he felt. But you said there was no need. You joked. You reassured me.
I must've refreshed Delta.com twenty times in the course of Sunday afternoon and evening. Should I go? Would I be extraneous there while J. needs me here? What do I do?
Now you're back home, letting out the dog, resting your stunned heart, looking over your fields of seedlings. And I am in Seattle. Thanking the God I don't believe in that you're alive and well.
A bubble has burst, though. A quivering sphere of safety has popped and now we're all out here, vulnerable to the whims of your arteries. Keep them strong. Will them strong. Be alive and well for another decade or two. Maybe three?
I want to snorkel with you in Hawaii next winter, help you arrange your market flowers--assuming mom lets you continue with that :)--, watch you rumble around your acreage with Max and Claire next to you on the John Deere, and sit on the porch with you this summer drinking beer (can you still?) watching the sun dip below the western trees.