My cell phone rings. It's a number I don't quickly recall, so I let it go to Voicemail. No big deal, I hate those anonymous calls anyway. Bad idea--it was my dad calling, almost six weeks after his open heart surgery and the first time since the day of the surgery when I had last heard his voice.
His message is long and rambling. His speech is slurred and halting and yet, I am frozen to the floor listening intently to his every word. He is calling and speaking to me--and it is bliss to hear him.
I can't even remember everything he said, but it was precious and so welcome to hear. In the weeks prior, I had feared that I would never hear that voice again as his surgery was a drastic and life threatening thing to his weary body. He's 85 now and challenged with Type II diabetes and life-long MS among other things. The procedure was risky but necessary as his heart valve had stopped functioning. Open heart surgery was the only viable solution. The mere suggestion of it terrified the whole family. What seemed like a routine procedure to a young doctor was a fearful roller-coaster to the octogenarian on the table. The octogenarian being my father, in more words than could be described, was scared, helpless. Seeing your parent scared is not an easy thing. You always assume your parents are super-heroes in a way and therefore, can't be broken or remotely weak.
I know when I was faced with breast surgery in 2008 for a milk duct removal, I was terrified but tried to hide it for my kids sake. I remember the IV technician having difficulty finding the best vein to start my glorious sleep juice. I was helpless. The operating room was undergoing construction work to expand it and my gurney was pushed up against a wall, wedged between shelves of cartons and supplies. The nurses tried to pull a curtain around me for some privacy, but, hey, we're not fooling anyone here. I saw the full blue plastic crates of tubes and gowns. I just had to trust I would wake up from my slumber with one less tumor and a good prognosis. At that time, I didn't know if it was cancerous or not and just the unknown was enough to undo me. The prep, the surgery, the recovery, the waiting. None of it for myself, or my family was easy.
So back to my father--it was a similar feeling, from a different vantage point. His being on the table, mine being almost 2000 miles away from him. We were both helpless. Unable to reach out to each other, unable to comfort each other and yet, several weeks later and many phone calls to siblings--I finally spoke to him.
Yes, he's weak, for now. He improves every day. He's in rehab now and has crested the hill of independence a little more. I call or text and check in. The updates are less frequent, less dire. This is good.
Both he and I are feeling much less helpless these days.