My father came home this week after spending six out of the past eight weeks hospitalized. The good news is his heart, after one hell of a tune-up, has the potential to recondition itself, to a fixed frequency of 80 beats per minute, thanks to a new pacemaker.
Some things though, will never be the same. Feet swollen to a point of no return, the flattened soles/(soul) of a failing heart, are now clad in medical-gauge, velcro slippers, worn indoors and out, that make him trudge with the weight of them rather than roll heel-toe.
Then there’s the peripheral neuropathy that burns through the night. There’s no cure for that kind of nerve damage and little to no relief from the meds. He’s had it longer than the heart failure and about a year ago, I suggested he ask his doctor if he could try pot. Dad was keen but the doc was not, at least for now. You see, long ago in Pakistan, a prankster offered my father a hashish-stuffed pakora and what he remembers the most is that he felt no pain when his mother slapped him hard across the cheek for doing drugs.
Since early April, my father’s looming death has felt like a long and painful goodbye. I lived on bagels, neglected my son and distracted myself by reading best-selling thrillers instead of the usual “book club” fare.
I rehearsed the words I wanted to say to him over and over in my head. The kind of speech you hear in the movies, when somebody is dying. But the night before his surgery, he couldn’t breathe and his heart rate was dipping below 35 and my mother was too distraught. So I said nothing except, “See you on the other side, Dad.” And as it turns out, I did.