Serious as a Heart Attack

My 71-year-old father had a triple bypass [in 2001] on Friday, April 13.  Good Friday.  Friday the thirteenth.

Doctors had discovered three Subaru-sized heart blockages inside him during tests the previous day.  The blockages had caused a hidden heart attack almost a week earlier, a heart attack whose symptoms (aching bones, weakness) had compelled him to seek tests in the first place.  His then-unknown ailment had made me concerned about his future (of course) but also about mine. I’d thought my 35 years on Earth unsuccessful and wondered if I could still improve myself and make him proud before his death.  (I’d thought he’d had terminal bone cancer, sheesh.)

Note my father has never expressed any disappointment in me.  I highly doubt he feels any disappointment.  Why should he, when I’m my own most stringent critic?

Anyway, I’ve taken over his part-time credit union job during his recovery.  One day at the office, I worked in silence as two men my father knows discussed the many sins of local African-Americans, whom one of the men charmingly referred to as “spooks.”  The other noted he has “lots of colored friends” who hate his disreputable black neighbors.

Thus, the racial politics in certain parts of Western Pennsylvania.

I visited my father in the hospital yesterday and called the “spooks”-saying man a racist.  My father disagreed, saying the man had grown up around blacks (and thus, by implication, was not racist) and had sat with him all day out of kindness and concern after the heart operation.  “Some people blame blacks for everything around here,” my father continued, but I shouldn’t let that fact upset me so much.  “You take everything so serious,” he told me.

April 23, 2001

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