My sister Ann called from Chicago this morning, and just hearing her so early meant there was news, maybe bad news, about my dad.
In the middle of the night, he had chest pains. Not wanting to disturb anyone — neither Ann, who lives three blocks away and would have been at his place in a split second if he called; nor neighbors; nor paramedics — he climbed the stairs from his apartment, walked out to his car, and drove himself halfway across the city to the hospital where his doctor practices and presented himself at the emergency room. Ann was quick to say he was OK and reminded me that a few years ago he had chest pains and they turned out to be unrelated to any heart problem. So I was relieved and resigned myself to waiting to hear what the hospital tests showed.
Ann called back late in the afternoon. She and my brother Chris had spent the day at the hospital with Dad. The tests showed a 75 percent blockage in one heart artery, and the cardiac people did an immediate angioplasty (ran a little balloon through a blood vessel in his groin up to the heart to clear out the blockage). “Technically, they say he did have a minor heart attack,” Ann said. The procedure he had was not pain free, and he was pretty much immobilized afterwards and put on what sounded like a host of drugs — blood thinners and sedatives and godknowswhatall.
So let’s roll the tape back to this morning. Here’s my dad, six weeks after his 84th birthday. He sits up in the middle of the night with chest pains. And does what, again? Drives himself to the hospital. Halfway across the city. And not to be dismissive of fine Illinois metropoli like Rockford, Springfield and Rantoul, but this is not Rockford, Springfield or Rantoul he was driving halfway across, but Chicago, city of broad shoulders and big dimensions. What an adventure. I wish I’d been there to see the looks in the ER when he strolled in.
“He’s getting no end of grief from everyone who hears about the drive,” Ann said. He’s probably loving it, too. It just proves it’s never too late to add to the legend. If Mom was taking this in from some after-life bleacher seats — she’d prefer those to the boxes, though she’d like the boxes just fine — I’m sure she got a kick out out of my dad’s pluck.