How Could You Check Facebook When Your 72 Year Old Dad Is In the ER?

My Dad has been hospitalized exactly once in his life – he had pneumonia about ten years ago when he was in hid early 60’s. He went to the doctor and was hospitalized immediately. I remember sitting at his bedside and thinking that it was the first time he looked vulnerable to me. Fortunately with rest, he bounded back and is in pretty good health for a 72 year old man. He still works full-time and that keeps him pretty active.

Yesterday, however, I had a heartstopping moment. My Dad called me from a number I didn’t recognize and informed me that he was at his doctor’s office with blood pressure reading over 200. The doctor (I could hear in the background) wanted my father to proceed to the ER next door. My father objected  – he wanted to go home and explain to my mother, worried about upsetting her and wondering who would care for her. The doctor said “That would be dangerous. We need to make sure you didn’t have a heart attack or a stroke.”

“OK, Dad, you need to think about the impact of you having a heart attack or stroke at home and how that would make mum feel,” I said. He agreed.

So I called my mother and arranged to pick her up, then drove to their neighborhood. My Dad was admitted to the ER and called to tell me that they did not suspect any serious and had given him a battery of tests and meds to lower his blood pressure. By the time we arrived, it had dropped, spiked a bit and then settled down to a reasonable level. He was discharged with a script for blood pressure medication and ordered to see his PCP to begin the requisite lifestyle changes. So that’s a good outcome.

I was pretty calm even though I could feel my own heart racing. I collected my mother, contacted assorted family members and even tagged my Dad on Facebook because I knew he would get a kick out of people sending good wishes. Plus, prayers don’t hurt. I managed to sit with my mother while she ate dinner and not throttle the servers for being slow. I responded to tweets and texts and email from family.

I didn’t allow myself to think “My Dad could die” more than once. I said it once at home and then I didn’t think about it again. I stood in his little cubicle and teased him about the gown clashing with his brown socks. I listened to my mother lecture him. I kept that little voice locked up in my head. And even as I write this – it feels like a surreal experience. Like it happened to a television character, not me. Not *my* Dad. He’s invincible. He’s always carried on and he’s aways been around. And, ?

When you have a close call, you tend to promise to do things differently. I resolved to call my parents more often and make a greater effort to spend time with them. That’s not earth shattering.

I felt very alone as I sat in my car in front of my parents’ house. And I checked my phone – I saw that 33 people had liked my post asking for good thoughts/prayers. And I felt a little less alone.

Today, I read that Republican US Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) has “changed his mind” and now supports marriage equality – the first Republican Senator to do so. The reason? His gay son. I don’t care if he should have done it years ago or whatever. I just feel glad for his son that they get to appreciate this moment together and that Senator Portman might help other parents embrace their LGBTQ children.

Because you don’t know that telephone call is going to mean and you don’t always get second and third chances to know your son/parents.



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