Monday, February 14, 2005

Broken hearted

This post is probably not what you're expecting, with it being Valentine's Day and all (boo-hiss). I am not broken-hearted this year, actually; maybe numb-hearted? resigned-hearted? Anyway, this post is not about me, it's about my Dad.

My Dad has been experiencing heart problems again and tomorrow they're doing a heart cathertization to see what's up. This will be his third one -- the first one was after his first heart attack in 1999 (I think - maybe 98?) and they put in a bunch of "stents", which are steel tube-like things that hold open the heart's arteries that are clogged with plaque. They work by smooshing the plaque back into the artery and opening up the passageway. He then had another cath after his second heart attack in 2003, and they again filled him up with stents that were supposed to fix everything. But 2 years later, he's having heart symptoms again and has actually been taking Nitro on a daily basis to hold another heart attack at bay until tomorrow, when they Check It Out. He is trying to be blase about it, saying he's not worried, they'll just stent him again, no big deal, but the underlying feeling in my family is that it IS a big deal. My mom has been bursting into tears and worrying incessantly that something bad is going to happen. I went to SA yesterday, ostensibly for my birthday celebration, but really, for a stealth family reunion, at my mom's request.

It was classic O Family fare: my mom would leave the room and my dad would come up to me and say "if you didn't know it, your mom is really worried...I dont' know why... she's being all morose..." and I would say "well, dad, are YOU worried?" "No." "Well you know mom." "Yeah, she's a worry wart". Then my mom would return and dad would leave the room, and my mom would turn to me and tearfully say "i'm sooo worried, i wish he would be more serious about it, what if he is having heart pains but he's ignoring them???" and I would say "mom, give him a little credit, he's had two heart attacks and I think he would know if he was having another." Dad would return and the conversation would turn to something equally uplifting like Vietnam. It was a fun-filled weekend with the O Family. The highlight was the boys, as usual; my sister's kids are delicious and delectable and made us all laugh and get warm fuzzies all day.

Last night, before I went to sleep, I picked up my dad's book that he wrote about Vietnam and began reading it for the first time. I have not been able to read it before because it upsets me too much. It's like I can't watch "Saving Private Ryan" or "We Were Soldiers" and movies like that w/out falling apart, because I know that war made my dad who he is and has had a profound effect on our whole family. Until now, I've been afraid to pick it up. But I began reading it, and it was really mesmerizing. I heard, for the first time, the voice of my dad as a young man. I heard his voice pre-war, filled with optimism and naivete. I began to see through his eyes, and there is a lot to see. Like everyone else in my family, my dad is a talented writer, and I was reeled in for several chapters before I fell asleep. I'm really glad I read it. I will probably finish it in the next few days, and I will tell him I did, and he will be happy. And I have a feeling i'll be getting insights into my dad's personality I've never even dreamed of.

So I'm counting on the miracles of medicine to fix my dad's broken heart. Because if anyone deserves 20 more years, it's my dad. He lives an active life filled with loving his grandkids and children, reconnecting with his Vietnam war buddies (and the book has made more of that possible), and living in the moment. For the first time in his life, actually. I am going to go against my own nature, inherited from my mom, and be optimistic about tomorrow. He is in good hands and has a good attitude. However, I'll be glad when it's over, as I'm sure he will be too.

So, Happy Valentine's Day -- even though I'm not big on this holiday at all. But this year I am focused on more important things than where I'm not going to dinner. I'm focused on true Matters of the Heart. Because every breath we take is truly a gift. And every moment in life is another chance to turn it all around.

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