Chad and I had lunch together today and as we were driving ó in the Jeep, with the top and doors off for maximum enjoyment of the springtime that has gripped us both in its sunny aura ó I talked a bit about where my head is. From email from my cousin, who assists on these sorts of operations regularly:
…Aortic stenosis is quite common and is typically inconsequential until a critical condition (determined by physiologic or absolute area of the effective valve opening) is reached; things tend to snowball after that…. Valve replacement is the gold standard. Open the chest by separating the sternum (breast bone) and tissue above it vertically down its center. Put tubes in the heart and aorta to take blood out of the body, to send it into a bypass (“heart and lung”) machine and then back to the body under pressure. The heart is stopped by chilling it and giving it a solution high in potassium….I stopped right there, the metaphor being too much for me to handle. My dad is going to be split open, his heart stopped. Paused, yes, but stopped nonetheless.
Fuck this. Call me naÔve, call me immature or even absurd. This is my dad we’re talking about: he’s not made of real parts! He’s Dad. You can’t just open my dad up. He’s made of memories and strength and wry humor and Italian cooking and an absolute brilliance and steadfast reliability and Dadness. He’s not parts that break down, I know he’s not. And I know for damned sure his heart isn’t messed up. His heart is the best part of him. His heart has grown and loved me more and better than either of us thought possible.
His heart … his heart. None of this makes any sense.
Last night, I went with Lily to see her daughter Taylor’s musical performance at her school. Seeing all those rambunctious eight-year old girls have to focus on stage was pretty fun (and funny). I was sitting next to a father who was videotaping every minute movement of his daughter on stage, a darling little girl with long light-brown braids and dark eyebrows and a little overbite. Even if she didn’t have the focus in the scenes, I saw in the viewfinder of his camera that her single face was filling the screen. I peeked up at his face watching her digital one and my heart twisted. I thought of every single time my dad had come to see me in school plays and dance recitals. I thought of the albums filled with pictures recording my every creative outburst. My own dad always looks at me the very same way: the subtle, proud smile that punctuated so many of my theatrical memories. After the performances were over, I listened for the yelled, “Dad!” that always prefaces the run-and-hug and I heard it, although whether or not it was the girl whose father I sat next to, I’ll never know. It didn’t matter. In my moment, it was me and Dad, not made of parts that fail and need to be fixed, just our whole selves and as always, together.