The holiday season is when the past merges with the present. The leaves of this continuum tree get rolled into an obscenely thick cigarette that achieves a curiously satisfying high or a precipitously dangerous low. And somewhere between the merry and the menacing and the caroling and the crashing is where I tend to camp. The co-mingling of two wholly different mindsets is my default gateway; the holidays just add a heaping tablespoon of crushed red pepper to the equation.
And then Monday happened.
I get that message countless times over the course of a day. No big deal. And then I saw the name attached belonged to my daughter.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said, keeping it cool even though I wasn’t feeling cool in the least.
In a sad statement of the world we live in, when I heard her trembling voice, I immediately thought there had been a shooting at her workplace. My mind ran through a half dozen frightening scenarios, and then she let me know what was what and an entirely new collection of frightening scenarios ensued.
“I’m on my way to the ER . . . I’ve got abdominal pains that won’t quit . . I . .”
“You’re on your way to the hospital?”
I cursed myself for cutting her off before letting her finish. Then I dropped everything and skipped. The drive to the hospital seemed impossibly surreal, as if I had ventured off the pages of a neat and tidy script and into a fractured ramble of misbegotten that lacked all reason. The rhythm of the day had become disjointed and foreign, as if I’d broken out of a snow globe.
I’m pretty sure Dante Alighieri penned a divine piece of hate mail to hospitals back in the Middle Ages, and he wasn’t kidding. As I navigated the labyrinth of negative space, my brain constructed battlements to stanch the desperate chorus of sounds that raged like wildfire.
Arriving at her side, I compiled all the 411 from the nurse and my daughter and then came to the unprofessional conclusion that she was suffering from appendicitis. Imagine Marjorie Taylor Greene, without the manly conviction. Of course, this diagnosis wasn’t helping my daughter any and neither was the morphine for that matter.
When her CT scan came back inconclusive, I retired from the field of medicine and resumed my paternal obligations; in other words, I became a royal pain in the ass to anyone wearing scrubs. The ultrasound results effectively shut my ass up.
“She has a rather large cyst on her ovary. . .” The doctor began, as if he was reciting the special of the day whilst taking our drink orders.
You know what happens when you attempt to quiet the worst case scenarios that run through your head when you receive bad news? Welp, they run faster and they scream even louder is what happens. Before the doctor could finish scaring the fuck out of me, I’d done it my damn self. And then they served her up another round of morphine that ended up being as useless as the first.
It was a couple hours and an ambulance ride to Women’s And Babies Hospital before the nurses gathered around to prep her for surgery. And for what felt like the millionth time that day, I told my daughter that everything was going to be alright. Only this time, I was finally believing it. And then I kissed her on the forehead before leaving the room.
“You’re my favorite child. Just don’t tell your brother . .”
“He knows,”. She replied, not missing a beat.
The apple, dropping right off the branch and letting me know the universe wasn’t just listening, it was offering a little sage advice: Be grateful for the good times you get to keep, and hold onto them as if you’ve been gifted magic.
It was twelve hours removed from my daughter’s phone call before the surgeon came out to let me know they had removed a balloon sized cyst that had lodged between her fallopian tubes and her ovary. The intense pain my daughter had been experiencing was the result of the cyst forcing her ovary to twist on itself. The surgery had gone pristinely, as if God had tucked his present under our Christmas tree.
While I waited for the green light to be reunited with my daughter, I put in my twentieth call of the day to Dale and I let her know the color was returning to my knuckles rather nicely. We spent the next few minutes exhaling for the first time all day as the clock drew ever closer to midnight. And then I called Big Papi to let him know why I had been incommunicado.
He took the news quietly and then cursed at the idea that someone so young and healthy might have to deal with a body that barks back at them. Of course we know full well that life doesn’t give a fig about pretty faces or the date of birth on your driver’s license. But his rant was all about love, and I appreciated it. Because like me and Dale, he has that parental gene too . . the one that screams for the great white shark to come get us and leave the kids the fuck alone.
“But she’s going to be fine, man. You got your Christmas gift,”
He’s a poet when he wants to be.