The Night Before Dad's Surgery...A Little More Than A Month Later
My dad gave me permission to share the photos of his surgery. He said I didn't need to ask, but when you see them, you'll understand why I did. Even though he asked me to take pictures of him at every stage, he didn't see himself.
The day before the surgery I knew that mom and dad would be tied up in pre-op all day. I also knew all three of my brothers would be in town, which doesn't happen very often. I decided we needed to have a family dinner.
I had a nice steak dinner in mind. You know, roasted asparagus, twice baked potatoes - the works. I wanted to do it up big. That's what I wanted. But when I asked my dad what he wanted? He wanted burgers, plain and simple.
That is my dad. He loves simple. He yearns for casual. So we fired up the grill and put the burgers on. But before we did that, mom and dad called me and my brothers into the dining room because they needed to talk to us. As we gathered together, time seemed to stand still for a moment. There was seriousness in the air that none of us missed.
It was there, standing over the dining room table, that my dad laid it out. Wills had been done, medical powers of attorney given out. He made it clear that mom had the medical power of attorney and that if anything happened, she was to make the decision. Period. The decision is hers and hers alone he told us. She knows what I want.
Mom took over and told us how the next day would go. She told us the risks. She warned us of how we would see him when it was over. "He's going to have tubes coming out of everywhere," she gently explained. "He'll be on a ventilator, have a tube in his neck, two in his chest...you need to be prepared."
I'm not sure if it was the will, or the power of attorney, or the image of dad that got to us but as I looked to my brothers for some strength, they, like me, had tears in their eyes. It was not a good discussion to have the day before your dad's heart is going to be stopped. Next time we do this, I asked my folks if they might get these things together before the life threatening surgery is looming. Just sayin'.
With that heavy conversation out of the way, we broke out the beer, wine and even some daiquiris. The men and kids headed out to the grill, while I did some last minute chopping.
Dinner was good and the conversation was light. I'll hand that to my family. When the going gets tough, we have a tendency to laugh. Humor we do very well.
Like all good Catholic families, we invited our parish priest to join us for dinner. We wanted his company, but we needed his prayers. So before he left, we asked him to pray for dad. He happily obliged...on his knees no less. It was moving, scary and comforting all at the same time. I don't know what people do without faith.
As dad was saying his goodbyes and telling us how early he had to get up and that he still had to shower with his special soap, I eyed the camera in front of me. I wanted to ask him if we could take a picture together but I was torn. On the one hand, I didn't want him to think that I thought he was going to die. That wouldn't exactly be encouraging. On the other hand, what if he did? I would never forgive myself. Funny how a particular situation can make the simplest request so complicated. So I asked him because, well, better safe than sorry.
Once Nelson snapped the photo, my brother asked if he could have one too. In a skinny second we were all there with my dad...just as we should have been...just like he has been for us all of our lives.
Of course, I needed one of him with the kids as well.
One of the greatest things about having kids is their unadulterated faith. There was no heaviness in them. There was no fear. There was only faith. They had prayed so they believed my dad would be fine. That's all they needed. That's all any of us should need.
Of course, they have learned their senses of humor from the rest of us. And I have to say, it was a great way to end the night.