Jingle bells, Jingle bells, go call 911!
I arrived at my parents’ house on the Saturday before Christmas, along with four bags of presents, three grandchildren, two children, one dog, and a paaartriiidge in a— ... hold on ... anyway, we got there around 6.
Mom looked good, but Dad looked pretty haggard, said he’d been fighting a cold and cough, and hacked at us frequently throughout dinner. He went to bed around 7:30 and we all made jokes about how old he was to go to bed so early. I stayed up till at least 8:15.
The next day we had our Christmas Family Brunch, which translates as Eggs for Twenty-Seven. Dad wasn’t real chipper, but he was dressed in his Christmas pants, shirt, tie and jacket, so no one could tell. (It’s not the better you look, the better you feel; it’s the better people THINK you feel.)
The day after that was Christmas Eve. Since my children and I moved to North Carolina and had to travel up to Ohio for the holidays, we began doing Chinese food for Christmas Eve, but we couldn’t get Dad’s order because he’d been napping for at least four hours, until we all – and by “we all” I mean every woman in the family, because the men ... well ... they’re men – invaded the bedroom, stuck a thermometer in his mouth, and began searching for the antibiotic his doctor had prescribed a few days earlier.
Dad’s fever was 102, and there was no antibiotic, because, he finally admitted, he’d never picked it up. So, I headed for the pharmacy, but, on the way, I thought I’d call his doctor, who’s also an old family friend, and who wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear that Dad had ignored his antibiotic and was now in a pickle. In fact, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised it he’d taken his phone off the hook for precisely that reason.
He answered, however, and told me I’d been right to call – Dad’s 86 years old; a bad cough and fever of 102 can be dangerous. Of course, at 86, it can be dangerous to sneeze, but why quibble? He said to throw Dad in the car (his words) or call 911, and take him to the hospital.
So, there we were, on Christmas Eve, in the emergency room: Dad, Mom, me and my brother John, who lives nearby and had come over looking for extra Chinese food and found us headed to the hospital instead. (He figured if he hung around long enough, he’d definitely see an egg roll at some point that night.) Dad, naturally, had held us up while he dressed in his nice Christmas pants, shirt, tie and jacket again. (He’s old school. He thinks the better you look, the fewer needles they’ll use on you.)
We’re all squeezed into an emergency room cubicle – and, of course, they’ve taken Dad’s shirt, tie and jacket and replaced them with a lovely hospital gown they must have taken from the children’s drawer, because it had little clowns all over it – and the ADORABLE doctor comes in and says jovially to Dad, “How do you do, I’m Dr. Notwearingaring. And, what brings you in tonight?”
And, Dad, who prides himself on his quick repartee, looks blearily up at him and says, “An ambulance.”
“Ha ha ha,” laughs Dr. Gorgeous, “I saw that. But, can you tell me your symptoms?”
“Sure,” my Dad quips, “but my wife and daughter will contradict everything I say, so you might as well let them tell you to begin with.”
So, Mom and I go through the list of complaints ... well, not all of OUR complaints, but still ... while Dad breathes oxygen and gets an IV of fluids, and John looks like he’s sleeping sitting up (he has four children and assorted in-laws staying at his house; this is probably the most restful place he’s been in a week).
Meanwhile, back at the house – where my forgotten sweet potatoes are boiling away on the stove – my son, my daughter, her husband and children are all waiting for news, and apparently for Santa to bring them Chinese food. I call and ask them to rescue the sweet potatoes, and tell them we’ll be a while so maybe make some pasta instead, but as I’m hanging up, Dad croaks, “I want almond chicken and white rice.”
Bottom line: Dad’s home, with an inhaler and some Tamiflu, and feeling much better. He has influenza and bronchitis. The respiratory lady came in and carefully showed him how to use the inhaler before we left – two puffs every four hours. (Next day, while using it, Dad actually said the words, “If two puffs are good, six would be better,” which explains any derisive comments contained herein about men in general.)
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at email@example.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com.