I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve taken my father home from the hospital. I somehow got the honor after his numerous heart surgeries. The routine was always the same: I’d wheel Pops and his huge bag of whatever my mother packed out of the hospital to my car, load Pops and his stuff in while lecturing him to watch his stitches. Once, after a triple bypass, the nurse told me Pops had to place “something soft” between the seat belt and his chest. All we had was a teddy bear the heart patients received in rehab (nicknamed “Sir Koffs A Lot”—no idea why), so I drove Pops home with a teddy bear nestled to his chest.
A friend once commented she didn’t know how I did it. It’s easy. I owe him.
I was in a terrible car accident shortly after my 18th birthday. I was a passenger in a car that hit a utility pole. I wasn’t wearing my seat belt and ended up taking out the windshield with my face. My injuries were extensive, especially to my forehead. It was sliced three quarters of the way across and down to the skull. I also had cuts on my chin, a fat lip, chipped tooth and a very bruised face.
I required 300 stitches in my forehead, and I had to wait hours for the bleeding to stop before the surgeon could sew me up. My father had jumped out of bed and made the 15 minute trip to the hospital in eight minutes to be with me. He made my mother stay home after my friend told him how serious my injuries were. He didn’t want her seeing me hurt.
When it was time to start the stitches, Pops refused to leave the exam room. The surgeon was much smaller than my father and didn’t want a fight, so he said Pops could stay with me. And I’m glad he did.
I wouldn’t have made it without him. The shots the nurse gave me to “numb the pain” hurt so badly I insisted she stop and that the surgeon just sew. The surgeon yelled at me for crying. Pops told me to squeeze his hand when it hurt. He told me later he thought I was going to break it.
It was years before my father told me how he almost fainted watching me get stitched up. But I couldn’t tell. I just stayed still, squeezing his hand to block out the excruciating pain while tears silently ran down my face. It took the surgeon two hours to close my gaping head wound.
So, all those times I’ve spent in the hospital with my dad, being annoyed by him, praying he will make it through yet another surgery and then trucking him home are nothing compared to what he did for me.
I haven’t been in a vehicle without a seat belt since then.