The Emergency Appendectomy

When the phone rings at 4:23 in the afternoon and caller ID indicates an Indiana area code for a number you don’t recognize, you know something’s up. It’s my dad’s wife on the line, and she starts with a drawn out, “Benjamin?”

Sure enough, something’s up. My father’s in surgery for an emergency appendectomy. Not a big deal, she says. Excepting that his appendix is in a strange place behind his colon, and his blood pressure is unusually high and, heck, let’s be honest — he’s not the world’s healthiest guy to begin with.

I’m kinda’ blank about the whole thing initially, trying to think of what to do. Is he going to be all right? Why didn’t he call me before surgery? What if I never speak with him again? Should I hang tight? Should I log off AOL, call Carmel, head to the airport and fly to Indianapolis?

Calm, be calm.

I sit tight. I download “Tiny Dancer,” “This Love,” and “Bad Reputation” from the iTunes Music Store. I savor Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah (Live from Sin-e)”. And I decide that it’s late enough to finish the six-pack in the fridge. And buy another.

And then he calls, just moments after leaving the recovery room. He’s groggy. He slurs his speech a little bit but tries to sound fatherly. Still, we’re both a little bit scared. He has a four-inch incision in his side, an IV in his arm, and — for perhaps the first time in his life — is forced to allow others to take care of him.

I try and sound jovial. I joke a little. It’s the strange father and son dance of courage and fear. I repeat over and over that I’m sorry he doesn’t feel well, and that I love him. And in my mind, right next to the thought that his last will and testament is in my livingroom closet, is the hope that, should anything ever happen, my love for him would be crystalized in that one final moment of clarity.

Thankfully, that moment won’t be tonight. Or tomorrow. Or anytime soon.

Still, I figure that’s all I ever want anyone to ever know. That they are loved. And that they have been loved the best anyone could, always, and forever.

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