This is going to be a rather personal post.
Back in 2005, my father was diagnosed with lymphoma. He waited until late in the year to let me know. Why, I’m not sure. I think kept me in the dark so I could deal with my son, who was continuously ill due to an autoimmune deficiency.
He waited until November. I didn’t fully grasp the urgency at first. I did some research, but failed to put two and two together. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving that I tried to see him. He lived west of Fredericksburg, Virginia, near a rather famous battlefield. I lived south of Richmond, so it was a fifty plus mile trek for us and, with family involved, wasn’t something I could always just get in the car and go.
I wanted to take my son to see his grandfather, but my wife could not go. So, Chase and I get in my car and start out. That morning, however, I realized just how serious my Dad’s situation was. It played heavily on my mind. Twenty or so miles into the trip, I started to sweat. Then my chest tightened. Chase was, as usual, his normal happy-go lucky self. Talking about rollercoasters and Survivor, a show he was obsessed with and the fact that we had just passed Kings Dominion turned his attention to rollercoasters. I’m trying not let him know that I am feeling awful and trying to figure out how to prepare him for what he might see…something I should have already done.
The further we get, the worse I am feeling. My arm starts to go numb, I have a horrible headache and I am just sick to my stomach. I am thinking ‘lord, I’m having a heart attack!’ At that point, I forget about my Dad and all I can see is the car in a ditch, I’m out and someone is taking my child.
Oh Lord, what am I going to do?
I just passed the Thornburg exit, which is just a few miles south of Fredericksburg.
Ah, Mary Washington Hospital is just a few miles away, I’ll go there. Only, I passed that damned exit. I get off at Route 3 and stop. I tell Chase that Daddy isn’t feeling well and need to go to the hospital. I call my Dad and tell him we’d be late. He didn’t answer, though. A neighbor did. Shit. He’s sick too.
I call my wife and let her know what’s going on. Naturally, she gets upset. And where are the damned police? I get back in the car and managed to make my way to the hospital. Even though the lobby was packed, they took me right away. Of course, I’m thinking the worse…Lord, I’m going to be out of commission and no one is here to take care of Chase, who was eight at the time. We had never left him by himself.
At this point, he is very upset, but was very sweet. He held my hand and was reassuring me. Here I am, worried sick about him and he is reassuring me.
I get connected to various machinery, given fluids and blood drawn. And, worse, I’ve no damned cell service in the hospital. Sprint failed me yet again. I managed to get a hospital phone to call my wife and let her know that we are at the hospital. Naturally, I could not get her, but got my father in law instead. He let her know.
Chase was told about the video game room and went there while they did some rather unpleasant things to me. He was gone maybe fifteen minutes, quite a short time for a video game junky like him. He told me he was too worried and could not play the N64…which he was so impressed that they had.
By this point, I’m feeling a bit better, chest pains subsided, but the thumping headache did not. Finally, though, the doctor came back to tell me that I did not have a heart attack, but did have a PANIC ATTACK. Me. I had a freaking panic attack. They quizzed me about why I was up there when I lived in Chesterfield. I explained my Dad’s situation and that I was worried about him. Then, I felt bad and started thinking about my son. About wrecking the car and Chase being taken.
As I recapped, I started feeling bad again. They calmed me down and Chase, my sweet little boy, made me feel at ease.
Once we left the hospital building, my cell service came back. I managed to get my wife on the phone and found out she was halfway up interstate 95, on her way to the hospital. I set up a meeting spot, a gas station, for us to meet up.
We did. She took Chase with her and my brother in law drove me back to my in-law’s house.
I tell you, that feeling, like I was so out of control and that someone could take my son…something I never want to experience again.
We did finally get to see my Dad. We all went up two days later. It was the last time my son saw his grandpa. It was the last time my Dad resembled my Dad. Over the next few weeks, he slipped into a coma and withered away. He died three days before Christmas.
I was never as close to my father as I am with my son. Even now, as he becomes a young man, and it seems, at times, that we drift apart, I am much closer to him than I was with my Dad. That day, that trip, reiterated that and anytime I think we have drifted apart, I remember that day. We haven’t drifted apart. He is growing up. It is tough at times, we don’t always see eye to eye, but, in the end, he is my son and I am very proud of him and love him very much.
And, Dad, I miss you.