Six months ago, this was the story: My father was laying in a hospital bed, IVs going in and monitors coming out. Standing up was a challenge, walking on his own was next to impossible. The diagnosis was kidney failure. Without question, it was a grim and difficult time for him and for me. And, after a stressful week helping him recuperate, I returned home to spend the holidays with Hubs and Finn unsure of what would happen next. I hoped for the best and dreaded the worst.
My dad and I are a lot alike. We enjoy a PBS documentary on Harry Truman with just as much enthusiasm as an episode of Tattoo Nightmares on Spike TV. We’ve watched The Lawrence Welk Show unironically. He taught me how to be a foodie (now the Student is the Master) and to appreciate Nina Simone. We can get lost in deep thoughts and deep discussions on the nature of things…or the weather. We’re terrifically opinionated and stubborn to boot. This last trait has sometimes worked against us. But more often than not, he’s had my back. I’ve tried my best to return the courtesy.
Thankfully, it is this genetic blend of stubborness and self-reflection that made my dad determined to get well no matter what. Soon he left the hospital bed and went about the business of getting better. Every week that I talked to him, he sounded more positive and optimistic, more healthy. He even bought a bicycle (and rode it) and plans on signing up for a Spanish class soon.
So, when he asked if it would be okay to come up for a visit–for six days–I was surprised. He hadn’t been to New York in years and stayed for only a weekend at most. “Of course!” I told him, “We’d love to see you.” Frankly, though, I was nervous. My last image of him—maneuvering unsteadily with a cane—was still burned in my brain. I had trouble letting go of it. Yet, the man on the phone sounded so different from the one I’d left six months earlier. “I don’t even know who’s going to show up,” I told pals. “Think of it this way,” said one, “you just might make a new friend.”
So when Dad finally showed up two weeks ago, clean shaven from head to chin and forty pounds lighter, I realized we had a second chance. Not everyone gets those, I know. I decided I would just enjoy it and go with the flow, two things I am never comfortable doing. When we weren’t dragging him around Battery Park and eating at The Meatball Shop, Hubs and I spent the weekend teaching Dad how to use his new Samsung tablet and Galaxy smartphone (welcome to the 21st Century, Dad!)—he loves taking pictures and learning new things on Youtube. We even helped him create his own Twitter account and Pinterest page. He tried to make sense of Facebook: “What’s a ‘poke’?” he asked. “It says here that Linda ‘poked’ me a month ago.” Ha! Who says you can’t teach an old dad new tricks? And as the city sweltered under an early heatwave and our time was spent mostly indoors, he reminded me, “I’m not here to see the Statue of Liberty. I came to see you.”
[Dad’s pics from his new phone, including the beehives in Battery Park]
We even talked about his health, always a sensitive topic between us. Heart disease is rampant on both sides of my family and I’ve taken many steps to try and prevent it. “What do you think,” I asked, “has been the biggest contributor your heart disease?”
“My diabetes,” he said. “Diabetes causes the plaque that gets stuck in your arteries.” Then he looked at me pointedly; I knew an opinion was locked and loaded. “If I can give you some advice,” he started, “If I were you, I would find a way to get a handle on stress. You need to learn to relax. More than anything. When I was working, it was the stress that got to me.”
“Dad, work doesn’t stress me out,” I replied, then winked. “My family does.”
Now, we have a new story. The upside to this second chance is seeing my dad reclaim his life. The “downside” is that I’ve run out of excuses. Seriously, if my sixty-plus-year-old father can trade his cane for a bike helmet to ride around his neighborhood in under six months, I have no choice but to get my own butt in gear.
Instead of just letting all this inspiration go to waste, I (with Hubs in tow) began my Couch-to-5K training the other morning. I’ve signed up for a Mud Run (or “Mudder”) in the fall and have at least ten weeks to get into shape. I don’t normally like to share these things since it could all implode by next week. Though, maybe by telling folks, I’m now on the hook, accountable to you all.
What or who inspires you?