Don’t Fail Me Now

Posted: July 13th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Daddio | 1 Comment »

Sure there’s your wedding day, and the days your babies are
born. Those are fun and memorable and all. I’m not saying July 4th
has a leg up on those days. It’ s just that I’ve lived through so many of my
hometown’s famous Forta Julys–so many of those days with so many great happy
silly patriotic friend-drenched food-filled and sometimes boozy celebrations.
And this year I came frighteningly close to adding one really horrible memory
to all the others.

It was after the parade, which we watched this year by the
Demopulos casa, since the famous Connery party has sadly ceased with their family
home being rented out. Post-parade we ambled back to Dad’s where a good
selection of family and friends convene–some non-parade-watchers who hang at
the house all day, some who just come for the post-game barbeque, and those
like us who despite exhausted children (and their parents) do it all with
childhood glee.

Back at the house, after critical diaper changes, drinks of
water, and potty breaks, Mark rolled up his sleeves to do some grilling and
Joan and others got the spread all laid out buffet-style on the long table
under the tree. Jill and Kevin, formerly SF friends are now RI residents. They
and their three boys have become fantastic die-hard fans of the parade and the
Bristol celebration shenanigans in general. So, happily, they were there as well. The kids were running around on the lawn, playing some stompy-rocket kinda game.

So after greeting all the guests and introducing Miss Paige
to eager relatives, and doing the Mama thing tending to everyone else’s food,
fun, and fecal needs, I finally sat down to eat a lunch it felt like I might
never eat.

I joined Jill, Mark, and some of the kids on a blanket on
the grass, and in the midst of some little chat about something, or maybe
helping Kate cut her meat, or whatever–in the midst of that totally unmemorable
life going along moment–a couple people from the patio scream and I look up to
see my father lurching, stumbling, and nearly falling as some nearby people reached out to
hold him up.

I looked up and had the sickening thought that this was it.
This was the way my father was going to go. With me not even paying attention,
just biting into my chourico and pepper sandwich and otherwise having a lovely
day, and then totally out of the blue something could happen and he could be

Trust me, this is the most sickening scary feeling. I
sprinted into the house on pure adrenaline, quickly taking stock of the
situation as I ran past. It seemed like he was talking to people, like he hadn’t
lost consciousness. Was it too presumptuous to assume he was okay? If I paused
for even a moment to assure myself of what I wanted to feel—that it was
nothing and he was totally fine–would I be wasting precious help-getting time if suddenly in
the next minute he clearly wasn’t alright?

In the kitchen I squeezed behind the chair my Uncle Joe was
sitting in as he and Aunt Mary ate their lunches, and fumbled for the phone
dialing 911 as I craned to look through the window to see what was happening outside.

As I heard myself talking to the 911 person I was overcome
with how utterly plausible it could be that something like this could happen.
“My father. He’s 79 years old. He nearly collapsed, but I think he might be
okay now but I’m not sure. Please send someone quickly to take a look at him.”

Every year for as long as I can remember, since being a
little kid, seeing the rescue squad–the Rhode Islandism for ambulance–make its
way through crowded streets on July 4th was part of the whole steamy hot, crowded throngs, hectic activity tableau. I’m sure at times I stopped what
I was doing for a second to take note of the siren blasting past. But only ever
for a brief moment before returning to whatever happy-go-lucky thing I was
doing. Never able to empathize that a family could be dealing with a crisis, a
stomach-wrenching tragedy, a loss.

But when it’s you in that mode, it’s too late to get the
karmic benefit of having concerned yourself with all those other people. The
best you can do is just hope hope hope that this isn’t happening, that it’s all
okay, that in the midst of a lovely easy afternoon of no particular importance you haven’t been shot through a cannon and to your utter shock and disbelief landed in a devastating and
unforgettable day.

And somehow, blessedly, my internal mantra of “no no no no no” together with a huge dose of luck worked. 

By the time I stuttered
my way through the 911 call and their follow-up call to me (since I’d hastily
hung up before giving them all the necessary information), Mark came in from the
patio holding a scared bewildered Kate to give me a hug and let me know my father seemed to be totally fine. He was
sitting in a chair in the shade, no doubt embarrassed by all the hoopla, and making jokes.

Sure enough by the time I went out and saw him with my own
eyes he was eating fruit salad from a plastic cup and stubbornly refusing the
bottle of water I was handing him. It felt good, normal even, to feel annoyed
with him that he wouldn’t take a drink. He was back. 

As the adrenaline drained from me I broke it to Dad that the
ambulance was coming, fearing his annoyance that I’d called them. It seemed that he’d gotten up too fast, felt a bit woozy from heat, a late lunch, a drink. He never actually passed out–just got wobbly and light-headed. But I was still too scared to trust the party attendees’ non-professional assessment. 

Surprisingly he said he wasn’t mad; that it was okay. They’d just check him out
and if everything was okay, no harm done.

Maybe Dad felt enough of a jolt of fear himself from the
whole thing. Maybe like me the years of hearing ambulances cruise through
town on Fourth of July headed to other unlucky families we barely stopped to
think about made him take stock. If this year they came our way but left
without any real work to do, in the grand scheme of things that’d be just fine.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Don’t Fail Me Now”

  1. 1 Jill Davidson said at 6:21 am on July 25th, 2008:

    I think that the EMTs are happy to not have any real work to do, but not as happy as you were when it was clear that your dad was okay. That was a really scary moment — and did you ever get to finish that sandwich?

    so glad your dad was, is, fine!

    we had a fantastic time as always, so much fun, the shriners, the chourizo, and the mongrel lemondade rocked the town, as did getting to see all of you



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