It was just about a year ago that life changed for me and my family in ways that I’d only heard about, but never really understood. It was just about a year ago that we heard that Dad had had a heart attack.
We’d gotten home from vacation and Connor and I had gone out to do a little shopping. I remember feeling kind of excited, because I’d found a set of Star Wars action figures that included “old” Obi-Wan Kenobi from the first Star Wars movie and Connor was excited to have him as well. We’d gotten home and were putting away the groceries, when my phone rang. I looked and saw that it was my aunt, Dad’s sister. She told me that Dad was in the hospital in Chattanooga having suffered a heart attack. I sat down on our front steps, my mind reeling.
Dad had never been healthy. My sister and I talked after his death and came to the conclusion that Dad didn’t die because he’d abused his body. He’d died because he’d neglected it. He’d been diagnosed as a diabetic six years earlier, having had to have a toe amputated. Now, because he hadn’t carefully monitored himself, his diabetes was worse and in fact, had been a causational factor in not feeling the normal pain during his heart attack.
He’d lived alone for the last 20 years or so, after his and Mom’s divorce and after I’d graduated from college. He lived close enough to my university’s campus that I could live with him and basically be on campus. Because he’d lived alone and never remarried, he could eat what he wanted, do the exercise he wanted (not much, if any), and basically live how he’d wanted. And because of all those choices, his diabetes had gotten worse and he’d suffered a heart attack.
All these things ran through my mind that Friday night after I talked to Aunt Millie. And I knew what I was going to have to do. The next day I’d need to drive to Chattanooga and see what was going on with him, because outside of a few other people, I felt like I was all he had.