Eight years later I read the words I wrote while you lay unconscious and incapable of breathing and remember how you fooled the doctors. Dad, they told me that you were going to die and that I needed to be prepared.
I remember the noises that machine made, you know the one that kept you alive. I remember the docs who told me that I shouldn’t pay attention to the bells, beeps and whistles because they would confuse me.
They weren’t trying to be mean, rude or irritating. They were just trying to help but that didn’t help me. How could it. My father lay on this bed I was standing next to. You don’t know these things the way that I do because it wasn’t you who stood there. It was me.
It wasn’t you who had to figure out what to say to everyone- it was me. I had to think about what to say to grandpa. I was the one who told him and grandpa about Uncle dying. I made him cry. I told him that his son had died and I made him cry. That is not supposed to happen.
I had to think about how to tell my sisters, mom and everyone else. I had to think about what I would tell your grandchildren. You don’t have any other sons. My sisters have lots of stories and good ones, but the male line ends with me. I am the start and the finish.
That doesn’t mean that your daughters aren’t important because they are critically important, but I am the one that everyone says is just like you. I am the one who has a million and one of your mannerisms. I am the one who will have to take on a role others won’t.
You made it. You beat the odds and you kicked death in the balls and threw his bony ass out the door. I was and still so thankful.
When I think back upon the seven months we went through I wonder how it is I still have hair. I remember taking the big lug in that photo with me on lots of walks and a run or two.
I didn’t say much of anything to anyone about what I felt. I told one person and the lug. But years later it is easy for me to say that I was scared and nervous. You had a triple bypass two days before my daughter was born.
Two days. Do you know what that was like. Do you know how crazed I felt, worried that we would end up at the hospital while some man was cutting open your chest. Talk about torn loyalties.
I did what you would do. I picked my children first because it had to be done- but goddammit dad, I was scared and angry with you. And now I am angry again.
Angry because you aren’t taking care of yourself the way you should. I know all the reasons why. There isn’t any substance abuse here, never has been. That is good but it is one more reason why I am angry because you are too fucking smart to do this.
You dropped all that weight years ago and now you are putting it back on. I told you that I won’t watch in silence. I told you that I can’t sit by but I can’t stop it either.
I am Not You
When I was younger it was important for me to say that I am not you because I wanted to prove I was my own man. I don’t have to do that now. I am you in so many ways. You have a million good qualities and I am still trying to become as good a father, but let’s not lie to anyone.
You can tell me that I have weight to drop and I will say you are right. So what. I don’t have nearly as much as you do and I am 26 years younger. I exercise more than you ever have and I don’t give up on this.
But you can do this too.
You can turn this around. You don’t have to give into the stress this way. I write. I work out on the heavy bag. I lift weights. I walk/run on the treadmill and I play basketball twice a week.
My two biggest challenges are my diet and my age. I am not old, but I can’t pretend that I am 25 anymore. So I adapt. I adjust and I overcome. There has to be more than force of will.
But the thing is that even though I know you have to make these changes- if you don’t and the worst happens I will feel guilty. I will feel responsible. I will wonder if I could have done anything different.
I won’t say these things to you because I won’t add that to your list of things to worry about. This is where I’ll let it out because I can’t carry it.
It is not hard to understand your concerns or why you feel as you do. I get it. I understand. It makes sense to me. All I ask is that you fight this battle in a different way. Don’t punish yourself this way because that is how I see it. Your are punishing yourself.
You know you don’t have to worry about me because I always land on my feet. And you know that I’ll always help mom and my sisters- not even a question. So let go a little bit.
Just start exercising again and I promise things will look different than they do now.
This was part of the just write project.