Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Voicemail

My brother Gerard and I chat periodically. He usually calls during his drive home from work. If he calls at any other time, it typically means he has family news to share. If he leaves a voicemail that says, “Call me,” it’s usually not good news. A week after his last call me message, I was on a flight to New York.

The day before his surgery to repair an aortic aneurism the size of an eggplant, my father gathered his seven children at his home to review his will and final wishes. He chose my younger brother Tony as his advocate to execute his health care directive. With seven children, dad felt compelled to explain his choice.

"I don't want the final decision to be based solely on logic or emotion. It can't be Dina because I'm afraid she'll have me stuffed and put on display in her living room. Tony probably has best balance between logic and emotion.”

Sitting in the lobby, waiting for word on dad, Tony, a wry smirk on his face, leaned over and began speaking in a hushed voice so our sisters couldn't hear him. 

"Dad should have asked me to explain my criteria for deciding his ultimate fate. If the doctors tell me he's brain dead, I'm going to call a hooker every day to give him a blow job. If he gets it up, I'll keep him on life support until his money runs out." 

Tony is a good son.

“How’s he doing,” I asked the ICU nurse.

“He woke up suddenly. You can speak with him.”

“Dad. Dad. It’s Joe. Don’t talk. You’re still intubated. You did great. The surgery went well. I love you pop.”

He winked at me. I rushed back to the waiting room. 

“Dad is waking up. His breathing tube will be out soon and we can all see him.” 

An hour later we were gathered around his bedside. Even though we were warned beforehand, it was still disconcerting to seem him connected to so many wires and tubes. Dad was still too hoarse and weak to speak. He traced out names in the air of people he wanted us tell that he was still alive. He said little, but he managed to eke out the word sexy to describe the ICU nurse. Apparently, Tony had selected the right criteria.

I stayed with dad for a month following his surgery. The recovery wasn't smooth or easy, a seemingly endless series of doctor visits, trips to the emergency room, tests, procedures, and even another operation. But it looks like the worst is behind him now. Today he went to work for the first time since his surgery.

I hope Gerard doesn’t leave another voicemail anytime soon.
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36 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear all this. Was it a Triple-A? The size of an eggplant? Wow! So lucky to be alive!! Here's to no more voice mails!

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    1. Eggplant is my euphemism for a 6 cm bulge in the ascending aorta. He is lucky; they found it almost by chance.

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  2. Lesley and I are positive your dad will make a full recovery. Please know that our thoughts are with him.

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    1. Thanks, Rich, he went to work for 4 hours today, more that should have.

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  3. That sounds really scary. How wonderful that you were able to stay with your dad for a month following his surgery. I'm glad he's on the mend. Karen

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    1. Being retired gives me a lot of free time.

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  4. You have such an amazing ability to take a serious topic and present it in a way that both honors the seriousness of it while also infusing humor into it. Incredible gift you have.

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    1. Thank you, C.C. I prefer to laughing to crying.

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    2. I agree with C.C. who makes a nice observation of your writing.

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  5. so glad he's doing okay! love love that his one word was sexy. that is fabulous. i was the heath care directive for my grandmother - not her two kids - because she said i was the only one wouldn't screw it up - which i still kind of did - but not as bad as they would have. ;)

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    1. Dad said if had known Tony's plans beforehand, he would have played dead.

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  6. Glad he is doing well. Best wishes x

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  7. So glad to hear your father is doing well. I see where your sense of humor comes from.

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    1. There is this "off" sense of humor that runs in the family.

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  8. WOW, i'm glad your dad's okay and heck no to any new voicemails!

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    1. After reading this post my brother Gerard said that he was going to leave random call me voicemails just to f&#k with me.

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  9. I am so glad this story has a happy ending. And the "sexy" part referring to the icu nurse made me smile. Sounds like he has a great attitude!

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    1. That's how we new his head was still working – the big one.

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  10. Beautifully written. My best to you and your family.

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  11. I can't help but wonder the effect of daily BJs on comatose patients. Who would sponsor that study? Viagra? (Great post, BTW).

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    1. The study should be done with live patients. Comatose patients can't give feedback.

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  12. It is so startling to see one's parent hooked up in ICU. I'm so glad your dad is doing well.

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  13. And the conclusion? it really was a happy ending!

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  14. That sounds scary! The aneurysm, I mean. Just glad he came out of it healthy. Thank goodness.

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  15. Glad for all of you that it worked out... so scary. I was my father's proxy and my brother's ... both said as some point in the process that they were sure I was the only one who could put a pillow over their heads and kill them if need be...They died 10 years apart which makes me think my persona hasn't changed much over the years... ahhhhh to be so truly honored in ones family is a gift.

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  16. I'm glad to hear your father is doing better. It's certainly a struggle to get through the illness of one's parent. I hope things continue to improve.

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  17. C.C.'s comment nails it, Joe. The balance you struck between gravitas and wit is skillfull.

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  18. Glad it that he's doing okay! It sounds scary, this whole process, but your humor probably helps a great deal.

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  19. Damn you got me all teary. Then the picture. Well done, Joe.

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  20. I'm so glad your dad fought his way out of the woods.

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  21. Seeing loved ones in the hospital--especially immediate family--is so incredibly tough. I'm glad he's pulling through, and it sounds like he's maintained his sense of humor too.

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  22. I'm glad your Dad is okay Joe, and that you got to be there with him afterwards. I love the way you told this story. Perfect balance.

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