It has often been said that the eyes are the window to the soul and that you can tell if a person is lying by looking them directly in the eye. Now, I don't rightly know if either of those statements are true but if there's one thing I'm gonna take with me from my latest little episode, it's a certain memory that has been implanted in my brain. It's a look I'll never forget.
And it all seemed to happen so quickly.
It was Friday, my day to pick up the wee one and have her begin her ritual weekly stay with me. Truth be told, those are the weeks I live for. Oh, there was nothing special about her upcoming stay, just the usual routine of soccer and maybe a movie or something else to do to pass the time. I always take a certain comfort in knowing that all the time we spend together is what is popularly called "quality time" these days. What the hell else could it be?
It's funny how life can turn on a dime. One minute, I'm sitting at my desk, pounding away on some thoughts about a node I wanted to write and the next thing you know, I'm being strapped down to a gurney and being wisked away in an ambulance. I remember them spraying some nitroglycerin under my tongue and then it was sort of movie like, the slow eerie fade to black.
I remember them drawing blood and asking me about the symptoms I was experiencing. I remember them inserting the IV's in both arms and the struggle to find a nice plump vein. I remember giving them my family and medical history about allergies and any other pertinent information. I remember feeling a bit better and trying to hit on a cute nurse who had a bedside manner that would make Florence Nightingale blush. I remember hearing the words "blip on the EKG" and something about elevated enzyme levels. I remember hearing the words "heart catheratization" and I remember feeling very, very sad. And nervous. I guess there's only so many times you can push your luck.
I remember being prepped and shaved in places where razors have no business being in the first place and I remember repeating my medical history for what seemed like the umpteenth time.
Yes, I remember all of this.
So there I was, fresh out of the emergency room with tubes sticking out of both of my arms and my leg splayed out in some kind of contraption to hold it in place. A catheter had been inserted in my femoral artery and it revealed that my right corolary artery was clogged to the tune of 95%. A stent was stuffed up in there to keep it open and the blood flowing. I was propped up in one of those little hospital beds, one ear on the television and one voice whispering inside my head. I think it was the voice of doubt.
I don't know how long I laid there pondering my fate but it felt like forever. So many things cross through your mind in that little window of time that it's rather astounding. In a way, I wish I could catalogue them away for future reference but thoughts being what they are, they seemed destined to fade over time.
All of sudden, the door popped open a crack and a little blond head peaked its way in. She said, "Here he is!" and she and her mom, my ex-wife, walked through the door.
She took a look at me and the smile that she wore soon became hidden behind some kind of mask. She held my hand tightly and and her eyes flashed from my face to all of those tubes and machines that were either sticking out of or were somehow attached to me. I had never seen that look on my kid's face before.
If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was the look of fear mixed with compassion, the look of love tainted with disappointment, the look of a ten year old girl who was just beginning to connect the dots on the many ups and downs that life throws at us all.
I felt bad about putting her through it. This little brush with death shouldn't have to come to one so young.
Never having been a little girl myself, I've been told that they often feel that their fathers were somehow invincible. Just another illusion shattered way too early I guess.
After offering up some re-assurances it was getting time for them to leave. A peck on the forehead and one last squeeze of the hand to remind us of what we are to each other. A last glimpse as she shut the door behind her and our eyes met again.
Of all the things I detailed earlier, I doubt I'll remember much or any of them. Like bar stories, they'll fade away after being re-told one too many times. Time has a habit of taking care of things like that.
But that look, that look of worry that lived in her eyes as the doors closed will be burnt into my brain for a long, long time to come. It only lasted a couple of seconds but it will last longer than any image pressed between the pages of a photo album or stored away on a disk somewhere.
I never want to see it again.