Dad and impermanence

I finished cleaning out the refrigerator and sat down to edit the previous night’s wedding. My phone rang. The caller ID said it was my mother. Occasionally when I see her name on the ID screen my thoughts race back to my youth. My anxiety increases and I begin to sweat. I quickly retrace my steps and think if I’m in trouble for something I might have done or perhaps not done.

I answered the phone and there was no response. I said ” hello” several times and still no response so I hung up. Seconds later the phone rang again, same response but this time I heard my name. Nancy said, “I think there’s something wrong.” My sarcastic inner voice could be heard saying, “Do you think?” I hung up again. Seconds later the phone rang again. Again it was my mother. This time the connection was a little better and I heard, “Christopher…dad’s in the hospital.” I tried to get more information but the connection was just too poor.

Not knowing where my mother was I now frantically dialed both her cell and home phone. No response. I continued o hit the redial button as quickly as my thumb could find it. Finally a connection that allowed a conversation of higher quality to be exchanged.

My mother explained she was in the emergency room of Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and explained my dad had been rushed there by ambulance. This was all that could be heard before the connection began to fail once again.

In moments such as these I become quiet and introspective. I run through my head a checklist of things which need to be accomplished in order for me to move on to the next step. My frustration increased with each comment made by my wife who heard all of these failed conversations. Nancy repeatedly asked, “What’s wrong?!” The look I flashed toward her said, “You heard the conversations. I have no clue what’s happened other than my dad is in the hospital!”

As I showered I cried allowing the cascading drops of water pouring from the shower head to disguise my tears. I heard my self say, “He’s seventy-two. He’s too young to die.” “There’s too many things I want to talk with him about yet.” I thought about a book I had been thinking about writing with him extolling the values which have shaped me and have made me the person I am.

After I left the house I stopped for coffee. Strange maybe, but comforting to me. I centered myself and drove to the hospital expecting the worst but hoping for the best.

When I arrived at the hospital and located the room I cautiously entered. My outstretched hand clutched the dividing curtain and pulled it to the side. I peered around the curtain to see my anxious mother and calm father. I quickly thought it should perhaps be the other way around but knowing my mother, this equation fit perfectly.

When my mother briefly stepped out of the room to speak with a nurse, my dad, who had always been honest with me said, “I was afraid that was it. I couldn’t catch my breath and I thought that was it. I thought I was done.” The diagnosis…Congestive Heart Failure.

I sat in silence for a few moments, those moments feeling like an eternity. I thought of my Buddhist teachings of impermanence. I was snapped back by my father saying, “It is what it is. I’ve got to deal with whatever God gives me.” Typical of my father. It was moments like these and comments like that one which I heard throughout my life. My dad didn’t have it easy growing up yet I never heard him complain. His face always wore a countenance of strength and quiet determination. Privately this may have been the opposite of what he was truly feeling but he dealt with the present through his quiet, unassuming determination.


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