Wednesday, March 16, 2005

It's Not Brain Surgery (Part I)

It was a Thursday night in December of 2000. I was on the couch watching Must See TV and writing thank you notes for wedding gifts, while shooting occasional guilty glances toward the kitchen table, heavily laden with baking supplies. On Saturday, Paul and I were planning host a Christmas open house and we'd invited over 100 people.

The phone rang. I hollered down the hall for Paul to pick it up. It was obviously for him - my friends and family knew better than to call during Will & Grace. Besides, he was already done with his half of the thank you notes.

It was my dad.

"Sarahlynn, I need you to do me a favor. Can you do that?"

"?!!" He sounded weird. And how was I going to agree to something without knowing what it was?

"I need you to pick up Grace after her last final tomorrow and bring her here." OK, that's just crazy. Grace is my youngest sister, and she was then in college about 6 hours east of St. Louis. My parents live in NW Indiana, about 5 hours from Grace's school. This wasn't a "favor," it was ludicrous. No notice! I had a Christmas party to prepare for! I don't even think I could make it back in time!


"You see, I'm at the hospital in Evanston and I'm in no shape to drive down and get her."

Oh. That's why he sounds so funny. He's finally had the heart attack we've been expecting. It was very thoughtful of him to call me himself instead of having mom call. If mom had called, I would have had that moment of pure panic in between when she said that dad had a heart attack and when she said that he was going to be OK. I'm glad he's in a good hospital. Northwestern has got to be a lot better than the local joint.

Dad launched into a long and seemingly unrelated story about my sister Jessica, a first year doctoral student in Physical Therapy. I waited impatiently for him to get to the point about his heart attack.

Slowly it began to dawn on me that there was no heart attack. This was about Jessica. She'd nearly died of a brain tumor. Things were still pretty hairy. She'd regained consciousness but was not herself. Hydrocephalus. Emergency surgery. I was somehow suddenly half in the kitchen, half in the dining room, sitting on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Paul had never seen me like this. He didn't know what to do.

I didn't know what to do either. I went to the bedroom and started to pack - we'd need an early start in the morning. I put one pair of underwear and 5 pairs of pajamas into my suitcase. Then I just stood there indecisively, staring at my black suit and sobbing.

I left hysterical voicemails for my boss and editorial assistant. I sent a hysterical email to dozens of people telling them that the Christmas party was cancelled, please pass the news along. I was in shock. An hour before, life was better than it ever had been before. Nothing really bad had ever happened to anyone in my immediate family. We were golden.


genevieve said...

You will be golden again, you're in the furnace right now. It will be a different kind of gold, is all.
I have just read both those posts, I'm moving back to your daughter's heart opp in a jiff. But I remember feeling golden too.

genevieve said...

oh heck that was a bit glib. I am sorry. We have been in a similar furnace, I have an autistic son who is 20 and a daughter with epilepsy who is 18. I guess I also meant that golden was a great place once upon a time. That will teach me to post comments without looking through the whole blog, won't it?

It's a very fine blog too - came here via Anne at Fernham, I'll be back as the governor said.
Try and take some breaks for yourself during this testing time, do some restorative things to take your mind away a little from these awful things you cannot control. Sounds like you have a great family there, and a lovely little girl. Take care of yourselves.

trisha said...

What a frightening experience that had to be. man, oh, man.

Sarahlynn said...

It was scary as hell. And of course it was a whole different experience when it was my daughter instead of my sister who was so sick, having unimaginable surgery, and staying in the ICU. But I think I was more able to cope with Ellie's hospital stay because of the experience with my sister.

Genevieve, that wasn't glib. No worries!

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