Last night I was summoned to the hospital at
one o’clock in the morning. The old man had
a massive stroke that left his left side useless.
When I rushed into the E.R. and opened
the door to his room, I remember thinking,
“What if he’s already gone? What if it took
me too long to put my shoes on and drive here?”
The last time we’d spoken was two months ago.
We live ten minutes away from each other.
I don’t dislike him … you know how these things are.
We’re two totally different people, sure,
but I care for him, love him and respect him.
When I opened the door, he was still breathing.
Mom shuffled over and hugged me tightly. We
walked to the side of the bed. I took his hand
in mine. Mom said, “Tom’s here.” The old man had some
trouble speaking, but I heard him say, “Our Tom?”
Sometimes one word means everything. You see,
he’s my stepfather. Dad died when I was young.
The old man’s been around since I was seven.
He’s always treated me like I was his son.
About 18 months ago, he invited
me to his fraternal order to play pool
and have a beer or two. It was so awkward.
Neither of us could figure out what to say,
so we focused on the game. He let me win,
I think, because I remember him being
much better than he was on that afternoon.
Or maybe he was just getting old and I
was too wrapped up in myself to notice.
Today he’s laid up in a hospital bed.
A week from now he’ll be recuperating.
Mom had bypass surgery two months ago.
Her heart appears to be working well, although
she seems tired most days. They’re both 66.
It’s so strange that they’re show signs of aging.
I always sorta thought they were immortal.
Turns out they’re as vulnerable as I am…