It was Monday morning last week when I started to really worry. I was back at work after a week off and my dad was really sick. “How are you feeling?” I asked.
“I’m still alive!” he texted back.
At least I knew he still had his sense of humor. But my dad was really sick. He claimed he’d just gotten a virus, but he was so lethargic it was worrying me.
Needless to say, I don’t do well with debilitating illness anymore. And neither does anyone in my family. Claire and Austin had been asking me about Grandpa Tom ever since our return from vacation. “Is he okay?” Austin asked one night, and then Claire added, “he doesn’t look good.”
He didn’t. But what could I do? My dad was refusing to go to the doctor. “There’s nothing anyone can do,” he claimed. “I just need time to get better.”
But as we started to investigate the problem, especially Monday night, it became more and more clear that it wasn’t just a virus. By Tuesday morning it had become obvious – my dad had gotten some illness, but he also had probably gotten moderate carbon monoxide poisoning from the gas fireplace that was installed right before I left with the kids on vacation. Or maybe he was suffering from smoke inhalation? We really weren’t sure.
He had been cold on the day we left, probably the result of his oncoming illness, so he turned on the new gas fireplace. Unbeknownst to us, the fireplace installer hadn’t properly opened the flue. And so when my dad sat next to the fireplace all day long, day after day he got sick and sicker. By the following weekend, when I returned home, I immediately discovered that there was some sort of problem with the soot from the chimney, so I turned the fireplace off and totally aired out the house within a few hours of getting home. (Yes, the house was deemed fine by the gas company once my kids and I were in the house, but that didn’t change the exposure my dad had suffered.) Initially, I thought it was just a dirty chimney.
But Tuesday morning we decided it was something much worse. My dad was so exhausted the night before just from getting up to have dinner. I was really worried and Claire started crying. “Could you have died?” she asked my dad.
“Well, maybe,” my dad said, because he never lies. But then he added, “but I didn’t. So it’s fine.”
I went totally crazy that morning, calling the gas company and the fireplace company and every medical professional I knew. I threatened to have my friend who is an EMT come and get my dad. He claimed he was fine but I was worried.
I mean, I cannot lose my dad. I get that he’s old. I get that he will likely die before me.
But not now. He doesn’t get to die now.
I am fully aware that trying to bargain with God just doesn’t work. Or at least it doesn’t work for me. And yet, there I was, praying that my dad wouldn’t have anything bad happen to him.
We need him.
Actually, maybe God/the universe/luck had our backs last week. I mean, he didn’t die! He eventually went to the doctor (mostly because I threatened to call 911 otherwise) and he is almost totally recovered now, both from his illness and from the smoke and carbon monoxide. He will be okay. We have all new carbon monoxide alarms and the fireplace guys fixed the chimney.
But that was scary.
After he was feeling better, we were reflecting on how crazy the week had been. “It’s always something, isn’t it?” my dad said.
“Seriously,” I answered. “I mean, there’s one thing that’s true about our family: there’s never a dull moment.”
“Hell, it wasn’t that bad,” my dad said, “I mean, I didn’t die, did I?”
I guess that’s the bar with us. We survived it – literally – and all I can say is that I’m thanking God that we’re here.
I know, I know – I just said that I don’t really believe in divine intervention. But even if I don’t think I can bargain with God, I still believe there’s something to be said for offering a little bit of thanks when things go well. Because for some reason, everything worked out this time.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.