Just realized I let an anniversary slip past this week without comment, and it certainly deserves one, because it says something about the extraordinary doctors that worked at New Milford Hospital and Yale-New Haven back in 1982.....
On Saturday, June 5, 1982, Mom and Cyril went on a Boy Scout trip to the Peabody museum in New Haven, CT. Dad and I headed to New Milford to run errands. Meara was an egg. We get to Lake Waramaug and Dad has to pull over because he's feeling sick. He proceeds to have a violent seizure. I scream and run to the nearest house, but nobody's home and we live in BFE. Dad recovers and begins to drive again, but by Marbledale (15 minutes down the road), he's feeling faint, so he pulls into a diner (backing the car into a space! the man is a testament to anal retention) and tells me to call an ambulance. In my best grown-up manners, I explain his symptoms over the phone, and I make sure I explain everything I witnessed in detail when we get to the hospital. The docs decide with their limited technology that it looks like an aortic aneurysm and make arrangements to get him to Yale-New Haven immediately for further treatment.
The Yalies perform successful open heart surgery on Dad in the wee hours of the morning to repair a dissection of the ascending aorta, a tear in the lining of the walls of the aorta that requires a Dacron graft and full bypass. This is the condition that kills more people than it keeps, including Lucille Ball and John Ritter, so I consider it kind of miraculous that Dad survived the 45 miles to New Haven in the back of an ambulance, never mind that the New Milford doctors had the foresight to diagnose it so closely as to give the Yale doctors a direct focus on the problem. Dad was 42. I was 12.
24 years later, Dad may be a stroke waiting to happen, but that heart of his seems to be operating on a lifetime warranty, nary a twinge since. Facing a parent's mortality at any age is hard, but to have it become a "just kidding" is almost harder because then you're looking over your shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But then God gave us Meara a year later, and it was like, ok, that's why he was allowed to live. And all four of us poured the love we weren't able to communicate to each other, into her, and we all grew a little. I can't begrudge God for the vehemence of her life lessons, not when it results in something like Meara. The kid still radiates light to me.
So I pray with all my heart that we're celebrating 25 years next June with Dad, and that I remember not to take life for granted so much in the meantime.