The Old Man Keeps Going.

Unsatisfied with the results of his bypass surgery, my dad insisted on having an angiogram last Thursday, to check for blockage and possibly put in stents to keep his arteries open. No matter how many times we stress that the surgery was done to prevent him from having a heart attack, and was not meant to turn him into a 20-year-old, he doesn’t seem to get it. “That’s not normal, that I should have to stop and take pills every time I walk a few miles!” Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that he’s still going strong. But he is 80-years-old, so if he has to take a pill and rest for five minutes, especially on a hot day, that doesn’t seem so bad to me.

He was told after the surgery to take it easy, to avoid stairs and not lift anything heavier than a carton of milk, for at least six weeks after his operation. He was also told that he would have reminders of surgery while he healed, from multiple incisions and having his breast bone cut and stapled back together. But he’s impatient, and strong spirited, and it wasn’t long before he was climbing ladders, trimming hedges, painting his shed, digging up trees, and testing his limits any way he could.

My mom phoned me on Thursday, after the procedure, to tell me all went well. Everything checked out normally. The new artery was good. The other two were not any worse, and not bad enough to be life-threatening. The doctor told them that there were “64 reasons” why he could be having chest pains, not related to the heart, and it could even have something to do with the fact that my father is “riddled with arthritis”. His hands and his knees bothered him prior to the surgery, and I’m sure having a bone cracked open in his chest is definitely going to leave some lasting soreness. The doctors told him to keep using his patch, and keep taking his pills, and “keep” taking it easy. As my mom told me he had to rest for a week, I heard him in the background:


“That’s what the nurse originally said, but the paper from the doctor said a week.”


“You hear him? He’s arguing with me. He already went up and down the stairs.”


Clearly. So physically, he’s right where someone his age should be following such a procedure. And my mom also found out the reason why he only had a single bypass was actually his own fault. He was very afraid of the doctor taking an artery from his leg, because he needs to walk in parades and feasts and didn’t understand that he could have spared an artery or two. Limited to his chest, there was only one artery available, so they used that to replace the most seriously blocked one in his heart. I guess if he didn’t need the others replaced, it all worked out, but he still can’t make it through a parade let alone a feast. The recovery time may have been longer with a triple bypass using arteries from the leg, but he might have found himself in better shape afterwards, assuming he could wait that long. I don’t think he could.

I was also supposed to look up a socket for his car, whose directional lights keep burning out. One melted and fused, and he was having the hardest time tracking down a replacement. I explained I was in a busy season at work now since we have a new TV campaign running and a lot of extra print projects to support it, and that I’d do research for him over the weekend. The next day I came home to find wrenches and tools in the basement along with the lamp from his car, which he got my mom to help him with. When I went to a parade on Saturday night, he spotted a parts store nearby and went in while I waited for the gig to start. The socket proved elusive, and the dealer would only sell him the whole unit. He’s not going to spend $50 when the only piece he needs runs closer to $9. One of the players in the band offered to check with some of his sources, but again my dad proved impatient.

“[MCF], are you busy?” said a faint voice on the other end of the phone. It was 11 AM on a Monday, and I was in my office, so of course I was busy.

“Who is this? Dad?”

“Are you very busy right now?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m at work dad. What’s wrong?”

He sounded quiet, and a little out of breath, and I remembered seeing him weeding in the yard when I left for work that morning, wearing a back brace and drenched in sweat and dirt.

“Could you look up a part number for me?”

Now, my boss is pretty cool, but my office is in earshot of his, and I’m didn’t want him to think I was running a parts shop on the side. I couldn’t reach my door to close it, so I lowered my voice as much as I could, remembering that the old man is hard of hearing.


“I called a place, and they gave me this name, and if you go to the web site you can find the part.”

I found the site, but the part wasn’t listed. I asked for the year, make, and model, and started working my magic. As always when I research car problems, I found dozens of message boards where people had the same complaint, but few answers. It seems the melting bulbs were a common issue. Finally, I located a socket number for a running light, which apparently was close enough to a directional light, and matched his car exactly. I had to read several long serial numbers to him over the phone, every now and then catching an odd glance as someone walked by outside.

When I got home, he was elated. “That internet of yours is FANTASTIC!” he said, “Best invention ever! What it told you was great! They’re ordering the part for me!” As a side note, I should point out that he often refers to the internet as a sentient entity under my command, like a wizard summoning a mystic creature to do his bidding. Most inquiries start with, “Would your internet tell you...?” He did apologize when I told him my boss might have heard me talking and hoped he didn’t get me in trouble. My mom, meanwhile, was apparently oblivious to the fact that he’d called me at all. I guess he was so quiet on the phone because he didn’t want her to hear and yell at him. Heh.

My dad’s spirit is, for the most part, a good thing. It’s the reason why he’s doing so many things most 80-year-old wouldn’t still be doing. Sometimes I wish he could relax, and just sit in front of the television; I know I have no trouble doing that. And sometimes he does, usually for an hour or so at night, after he’s already built or repaired something or done some yardwork during the day. On Sunday he wanted me to clean the gutters, and had there not been a ball game on television, he might have carried the ladder up from the basement on his own. “Your father was talking about the gutters...” my mom warned me, as I was retreating to the basement to escape the brutal heat. I had no choice; she didn’t have to elaborate. If I didn’t do it, he would, likely when no one was around. So I carried it up, climbed up where it was even hotter, and pulled out any leaves. It’s not like we’re getting (much-needed) rain any time soon, but he was right about one or two spots. A small tree was actually starting to grow in one of them. I don’t think he heard me with the television blasting, and may not realize that I took care of it.

Sometimes I wish my dad could relax and slow down. He was getting very stressed when we hit traffic on the way to the parade, and anxiously asking if I could get over to the left lane as cars whizzed by. We had well over an hour before we’d be late, and I reminded him that he wasn’t going to be late for anything. My dad could stand to relax and slow down, but then, he wouldn’t be the same man if he did. For all his aches and pains, nothing stops him for long. The old man just keeps going. May we all do the same when we get there.


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