So my dad’s been home for the last week after his latest heart intervention, a stent slipped into one of his arteries, one of the few originals remaining. As always after one of these deals, he’s been on a lot of drugs and high as a freaking kite.
As unlike always, he’s been supervised.
Back when my brother and I were in high school, Dad had surgery unrelated to his heart: a hernia, perhaps. Something painful and annoying but not life-threatening.
But something that left behind a lot of pain. That necessitated some hardcore happy meds.
Now, I think my dad is the only kid who went to high school in California in the 1960s who can’t handle narcotics. I mean, they go right to his head, send him straight off to loopy town, but leave him with a druggy amnesia, with no memory of having taken high-quality meds. [Just ask my brother about the weird, mail-based monologue Dad delivered to him on one of these occasions. My dad? Has no clue that this ever happened.]
He thinks, when he’s on this stuff, that he’s straight as an arrow. That he’s freaking Clark Kent in a bathrobe and slippers, able to move furniture in a single bound.
And herein lies the rub.
So back in high school, recovering from this non-life threatening surgery, Dad was left home alone. My brother and I went to school, my mother to work, all certain that Dad would sleep away the day in a sunny haze, would do nothing more strenuous than go to the kitchen for a snack.
Because my dad is a smart guy. One of the most intelligent people I know. Surely he understood the doctor’s admonition of rest was not an idle one, especially with multiple stitches in his gut.
But my dad had other plans.
When we got home from school, Dad was sitting in the kitchen, wrapped in his tattered blue bathrobe and beaming. Lit up like a damn Christmas tree.
In that house, the kitchen was in the same space as the den, my dad’s home workspace, in kind of small great room style, with the room directly connected to the attached garage.
When we came in, something was different in the den.
Like, really different.
Like, a giant 150-pound desk different. The thing had been sitting in the garage for a week, waiting patiently for my dad to recover, bothering no one.
Except Dad, apparently.
We asked him: how had he gotten the desk in the house? By himself? With no shoes on?!
“It’s ok,” he told us, he repeated to Mom a few hours later. “I used leverage.”
He was so proud of himself: pleased of his ability to a) identify the correct scientific principle; and b) to apply it on his own, all by himself, and to put his mind at ease.
My mother was furious with him. And man, can she hold a grudge. She didn’t speak to him for almost two days, after that. And when she did, there was a lot of: how could you be so reckless? What if you’d hurt yourself, and bled out?
And the unspoken: what if you’d killed yourself, trying to get the damn desk through that tiny door?
Dad just blinked, his brain a visible oil slick in his eyes, fuzzy as hell and shimmering.
“But,” he repeated, confused. “It’s ok. I used leverage.”
When I talked to him tonight, he was loopy from his follow-up visit with the cardiologist. So pleased and relaxed on the one hand, because the news was good: stent’s working, potentially troubling valve looks better than they’d even hoped, no more interventions for now.
“And,” Dad said, his voice a happy molasses. “They took me off three drugs. And put me on another.”
But on the other hand, the more we talked, the more my dad was sentimental, the drugs pushing him towards an open schmoopiness to which he doesn’t usually subscribe.
“Your mom and I haven’t always been the best parents,” he mused, his words falling into contrails over the phone. “But one thing we did right: we didn’t listen to anybody else about how to raise you all.”
That’s right, I thought, I did not say. You used the only leverage you had: each other.