Navigating the Sandwich
Call Me. Maybe
When her father failed to pick up the phone at the set time, she began to worry
I call my 89-year-old father every day at 11. I check up on him to see if he needs anything. I punch in the same seven digits I memorized in kindergarten, when phone numbers began with names like Lincoln or Hopkins. The phone rings. Once.
Three times. He should have picked up by now.
Five. Maybe he doesn’t have his hearing aids in?
Six. What if he’s at the bottom of the basement steps? Should I get in the car? I could be there in eight minutes. What if I get there and his car is in the driveway, and I walk into the house and he’s in bed, cold and blue —
Sometimes his voice is thready and dry, meaning he hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep because of his sciatica. But he sounds good. I am able to deliver my opening line, lighthearted without an ounce of trepidation.
Me: “Hi, Dad! Just calling to check up! So . . . how are you?”
Him: “I’m fine. Now.”
My cue to ask the inevitable follow up question, but not before I pray to my late mother to give me strength. What had happened earlier to make him fine, now? Had he been accosted in a parking lot while buying donuts? Pulled over for erratic driving? Smelled gas in the house?
Him: “Well, I was sitting at the computer, trying to send an email — ”
Was that what all this was about? His inability to attach something to an email?
Him (continuing): “and I feel this warm trickling sensation running down my arm, and sure enough . . . it’s blood.”
He said this with a boring nonchalance, the result of his 40 years on the police force.
I picture him, Carrie-like, tapping away at his keyboard, leaving bloody fingerprints on the keys.
Him: “So I get up and get a paper towel. And I press, and press, but I still can’t get it to stop. It was a real gusher! So, I get a towel, tie it on my arm. Real tight, so I won’t get any blood on the car seat — ”
Me: “Wait a sec. Hang on. Car seat?”
Him: “Yeah. ‘Cause blood is hard to get out of upholstery, and I gotta concentrate on driving, not on my arm.”
He won’t hesitate to call me to come over when his computer type is too small or the thing he’s trying to print, won’t, but not when he’s bleeding out in the kitchen . . . ?!
Me: (Mouth open. No words forthcoming.)
Him: “So, I get to the emergency room — ”
Did he drive himself to the nearest ER? Or the one that’s a 30-minute drive under good circumstances? The one attached to the hospital my mother had been in and out of before she died, days after she had heard her two recently deceased sisters calling her home for supper?
Me: “Which ER?”
Him: “That one — where Mom was. And I see the doc, and he says this happens all the time. It’s because I’m on those blood thinners.”
Me: (trying to remember to breathe) “Um, Dad?”
Me: “ I’ve got a question — ”
Him: “Go ahead.”
Me: “Why didn’t you call me?”
There’s a pause. Like he’s thinking of a way to let me down easy. I’m his go-to person! He gave me medical power of attorney over my older sister because according to him she is too flaky. What had happened to change my status from Daughter I Can Count On to Daughter I Can’t Call?
Him: “I knew you were watching the Packers’ game. With your friends.”
There it is. My Green Bay Packer fandom has gotten in the way of my Good Daughter standing? May I present to the court that my father is the person who is responsible for my green and gold zeal? It was he who reverently spoke of Vince Lombardi et al during family dinners. He was the one who structured our schedule around kickoff times. I rest my case.
Me: “So, like, you’d have called me, and I would have said, ‘Oh sorry, Dad. Can’t drive you to the ER. We’re on the 10-yard line. Can’t you wait until halftime?’”
Him: “Well. Okay. I see your point.”
I’m like a parent whose child wandered off in a mall but after 15 long, arduous minutes of worry and panic is found safe. I want to yell at him. Give him a stern talking to. Don’t you ever do that again! But, on the other hand, he handled the situation. Besides, he’s fine. Now. No harm. No foul.
Him: “Next time I’ll call.”
Me: “Next time?”
To be continued…
This is the second installment in a series Mel Miskimen is writing for TheCovey about the drafty empty nest she shares with her husband, who is on the fast track to sainthood. Miskimen is a writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and author of Sit Stay Heal. Her previous articles for Covey include installment #1, “No Guns for Old Men,” and “When We Were Hot.”