I answered my phone apologetically, telling my co-workers my mom never calls while I’m at work, and joking that it must be an emergency, like the wi-fi wouldn’t connect. Worse. My dad was in the emergency room. There are these moments in life where it’s like you’re watching a TV show, where you feel like you’re looking down on someone you know really well and watching the most terrifying moments of their lives, but somehow it’s not your own, because it just can’t be.
“What do you mean? What happened? Is he okay?” My voice was shaking and it warranted the attention of coworkers walking in and out of the bathroom – the last thing I wanted. They watched me break.
As I drove from work to the hospital, I seemed to hit every red light. I sat, stuck in traffic. I wonder what it felt like for people in cars beside me when they looked in, for just a second, on one of the worst moments of my life, and then quickly turned away and continued on their commute. I drove by a wedding, and it occurred to me how strange it was that someone could be having the best day of their life, while I would soon walk down a hospital hallway, lined with socks; red socks, white socks, socks with holes in the toes; I looked for familiar socks, a pair I knew, and grew more anxious the longer I walked, until finally his shoes; he must still be him if he wouldn’t let them take off his shoes. I looked at the bride standing outside in her white dress, which contrasted with the gloomy October sky in stark contrast, and felt so confused. Life is such a strange thing.
“I’m ready for my discharge papers!” I heard his voice; he was still him.
As you get older this thing happens where you stop being the kid, and start parenting your parents, I moved my mom onto my cell phone bill this week; I took my parents out to dinner a few weeks ago and they got tipsy and I drove them home; I buy them all their nice tech-y things, and clean up their dishes; I find myself tucking them in at night when I come home and hear their TV on and hear their snores, and I’m helping them plan for retirement.
It’s the cruelest thing in the world that you don’t get to have your parents forever, and something that has seemed all too real to me lately, all too real was the look the nurse gave me as I said what happened to my dad, her apologetic sorrow seemed to suggest my life was forever changed, so call your mom, hug your dad, hold their hands in public, because no time with them is enough, I promise.