When My Father Had Open Heart Surgery by Jane Medved
They gave him a color brochure. It featured a smiling grey haired couple playing golf, then another photo of them happily fly-fishing, all sorts of promises about what lay on the other side. I remember getting up at four a.m. to drive my mother to the hospital, a huge teaching complex at the South end of the Loop. I remember that Chicago is cold in August. I remember sitting in the family lounge. I was reading Joan Didion “The Year Of Magical Thinking,” an astonishingly poor choice for that event. I remember thinking to myself, Why didn’t I bring a thriller or detective novel, who am I trying to impress? Even then my mother was forgetting things, leaving her phone by the deli counter at the Jewel, misplacing her glasses, all the time insisting that she was in charge. The surgery lasted hours, a quadruple bypass, new valves, a pacemaker. I don’t think there was much of the original heart left. It didn’t matter that my father was himself a surgeon, that he worked in this very hospital complex; it was a painful mess, with no carefree recreational activities in sight. Ten years later his heart said “Enough. I’ve had enough.” I imagine it panting, sniffing the corners for oxygen, cutting off one extremity after the other, first the feet swell, then the fingers can’t sign a check, the phone was especially difficult, talking and breathing at the same time, he would answer with a cheerful Hello, then immediately hang up on me.
Jane Medved is the author of Deep Calls To Deep. Recent work can be seen in The North American Review, The Normal School, The Seneca Review, and Guesthouse. She is the poetry editor of The Ilanot Review.