Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It Was My Privilege

This picture has nothing to do with today's subject. I'm using it because a friend told me recently that she likes to see pictures of the Boys as youngsters and this is one of my favorites, taken on one of our best vacations when they were 10, 8, 6, and 4 years old.

The picture I really wanted to use is very different, but I'm not posting it because it would have embarrassed its subject. It shows an 82-year-old man sitting on the edge of a bed with a blue robe draped loosely over his hospital gown. He has on black socks under his slippers, and he's concentrating intently on the text he's typing into a phone.

The man is my father's youngest brother, and the message he is typing is for his son and daughter. He is telling them that the heart catheterization he has just undergone has revealed blockages a surgeon has informed him are severe. The next morning, even though it would be Saturday, that surgeon would be sawing through my uncle's breastbone to attach veins that would carry blood around those blockages.

I was there when the surgeon gave him that news.

"Well, blah," my uncle said.

That is not a euphemism--it's the way my father and his three brothers tend to talk. Their vocabularies are one of the personality traits they inherited from their feisty Presbyterian mother, along with her longevity. From their father, along with his love of jokes, they inherited bum tickers. The sons share thin white scars down the center of their chests where bypass has been performed; their father died of heart problems at age 67. With modern surgery he might have lived into his 80s, too.

Because my uncle's son was in Europe on business and his daughter had unbreakable family commitments out of state, I offered to sit with my aunt during the long weekend hours of waiting. This was not a sacrifice; she's one of my favorite people and we talked non-stop about our children, about our dreams, about what we were going to serve for dessert the next time we hosted our women's groups.

Last night I drove to the hospital for the final time. My cousin had arrived earlier in the day, and she'll be accompanying her parents back home when Uncle H. is dismissed tomorrow. His surgeon had declared the procedure (four bypasses) an unqualified success, and even knowing what tough old birds my father and his siblings are, I am astounded at how quickly the recovery is progressing.

This morning my inbox contained a message from my other cousin. He was effusive in his thanks. "THANK YOU very, VERY much!  I really felt helpless being in Europe as the news got progressively worse, from high blood pressure to a heart catheter to bypass surgery.  I am so glad that you were close by and willing to go be with both of them.  I know it meant a lot to them, and Mom especially."

This cousin is not going to believe me when I say, sincerely, that it was a privilege to spend the weekend with his parents, with his wonderful geeky dad in the slippers and black socks and his wonderful chatty mom with the great ideas for desserts.

It's what cousins do for cousins.

It's what I wish for my sons and their cousins.

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