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.