Sunday, July 01, 2007

Wait To Worry

This is one of my aunt’s mantras. And it makes sense. When I think of how much time we spend – I spend – concocting upset only to have the thing I was stressing about turn out just fine, it’s silly. What inane creatures we must seem from the point of view of dogs or space aliens.

I know it’s partly a control issue. We like to imagine we are in control of a situation or caring about it by worrying when really all we’re doing is giving ourselves ulcers. Now as a writer, my version of many of these worries tends to run to the melodramatic. To put it mildly.

My father had surgery today. Never the kind of thing you want to take lightly. But by all accounts his was a fairly routine procedure and most likely we’d have nothing to worry about. His girlfriend was tasked with calling me when he came out of surgery to let me know everything was fine and then I would call other family members to report. The appointed hour of his surgery came and went and I hadn’t gotten a call. I tried to stay calm and positive. But I kept finding myself running down the “What if they’re not calling me because it’s bad?” track.

After several more silent hours passed, I was beside myself with worry. The sappiest dad/daughter hallmark cards were getting me choked up and I found myself saving his voice mails from that morning. After all, what if they were the last ones I ever got?

Finally I called Information in his county and got a hold of the hospital. The first lady I spoke with had no record of him as a patient. OK, that’s not worrying. The second, third and fourth bounced me from department to department. Finally I ended up talking to an orderly in an operating room.

“Oh yeah, we’re just cleaning up that room.” He informed me. From what? Massive blood loss on the Linoleum? He didn’t know the status of the patient.

I finally got a friendly nurse at yet another department front desk. I gave her my father’s name and she sweetly asked me to wait and then put me on hold for an eternity. As the canned Chuck Mangione trickled over the phone, my imagination ran away.

Why is this taking so long? Clearly it’s because the records were not there. Or they were there…but she doesn’t want to be the one to tell me. She’s trying to find a doctor or someone else to break the horrible news that my father has passed away. Oh my god. How am I going to deal with everything if he’s gone? His business dealings, his investments I won’t know how to handle, his crazy dog I’ll have to take. Did I remember to save that voice mail from this morning? Did I tell him I love him before he went in? How could I face life without my dad? I am not ready to be an adult!

Tears were running down my face as the hold music blared. I scolded myself: Get a hold of yourself, woman. You don’t even know what’s going on and some poor nurse could pick back up and you’ll be a blubbering mess. It’s hard to explain to a stranger that you are crying over an imagined possible scenario.

At last a nurse came back to the line. “He was released hours ago. He should be home. Everything’s fine.” Resolving to smack my dad’s inane girlfriend for letting me stew in my own worry for hours, I thanked the nurse and blew my nose.

The next day, when the drugs had worn off, dad called me and everything was indeed fine. I felt funny telling him how upset I’d been. It’s kind of odd talking to someone about the effect their death will have on you.

Of course it’s hard not to worry about someone in surgery and I’m sure there are plenty of morals in there about making the time you have with people count. The important thing is now my dad knows I save his voice mails and worry about him. For me, I’ll try to contain the worst-case-scenario musings to the page.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Julie Goes To Hollywood said...

The girlfriend deserves more than a smack. I say a smack across both sides, followed by a thump on the head. Wait, that's my family. Yours may be functional.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Ah Julie, if we were from truly functional families would we be writers?

9:54 AM  
Blogger tomawesome said...

there were some lessons learned in this little episode. even if he didn't die, in your mind you were preparing for it. when the time comes for real, it will be an easier experience for you. older and wiser, eh?

8:07 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

True, Tom. Thanks for that perspective. I don't think you can learn "appreciate every day" too many times.

10:30 AM  

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