Thursday, November 03, 2005

Joe's Deli on Hiatus

Published November 3, 2005

I’ve written before about my Pop’s sense of humor and what he has meant to my life. A daughter needs her Dad’s assurances as much as she needs her husband’s love.

He adopted me after marrying my mother when I was three years old. He has been my father in every way imaginable and sometimes the biological is hard to decipher from the environmental. I think his influence has had a protracted infusion in my personality which some might mistake for biological, but I know it’s the product of his love.

The reason I am writing about him today, especially this particular Thursday, is because he is under anesthesia this morning in an operating room, undergoing a prolonged surgery to save his life from a life threatening aneurysm on his aorta which he has known about for the last two years, which has doubled in size over the last couple months. I am there with my mother in a waiting room, not too far from the coronary care unit, waiting for the surgeon to work a miracle, remove and rebuild a section of his life preserving artery, one deep in his abdomen. The incision will be long from sternum to thigh. He will be swollen and pale and unable to talk afterward. How will my mother cope with seeing him like this today? He will look frail, small and wounded. My father, our rock. Today, I will find out what it really means to put my own emotions aside. I am scared but I must not allow it to show. She needs me to be strong and he does too, because he is scared and instead of showing it, he buries it because he doesn’t want us to worry about him. He doesn’t want us to be scared. He is courageous when I know his mind must be racing. What I really want to do is cry. I am worried sick.

We saw each other last Sunday. I said, “You know, you’re going to be OK. It’s really great that this is going to be fixed and you don’t have to worry about it anymore”. He reassured me and himself. “I’ll be golfing next Wednesday,” he chortles. He was worried about how he was going to get out of bed once he got back home. (Good, I thought, he’s talking about getting home again…he’s looking ahead. He’s talking about his golf game, walking the dogs, rolling out of bed onto his knees so he can stand without hurting that long zipper of an incision). I talk about the food, which is what I know. “I’m going to make meals for you and freeze them so when you get home, you’ll have something better than hospital food to eat”. He tells me not to make them too fancy. “Just soup…Tam”. “Tell me if anything hurts Dad, I’ll get you drugs, I promise, whatever you need”. He keeps reassuring me. How can I reassure him?

“God, please help him. I pray…”Please get him through this. Guide the surgeon’s hand.” We don’t talk about death. My mom and dad give me two powers of attorney medical directive documents last Sunday. I read them over. How did I get to this place? How many of us get here and we are never ready for it. How many of us see our parents as completely and totally invincible in a moment, and the next, we are waiting for the surgeon to come out of the operating room with good news, any news. Why does it take so long? Where is she? What are they doing in there? Why is it taking so long? I can’t stop pacing. My mom will not say much today. We’ll say the rosary together. I remember the grandkids praying for him last Sunday. They asked me questions in the car coming home “Is Pop Pop going to be home soon. Can we come see him in the hospital? What’s an aneurysm?”

The parent who has raised you, disciplined you, congratulated you, celebrated with you, stayed up late talking to you, is now unconscious, on a breathing apparatus, in an intensive care unit, needing life support and one-to-one nursing. Helplessness and faith must take over because my heart is worried beyond explanation. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”…

He has been a wonderful provider, hard worker and instilled a sense of duty and responsibility into our character. I think of him when I am disciplining my children, not because of the manner in which he disciplined, but because I know it wasn’t easy for him growing up. I hear him when I am teaching my kids something, or showing them something new. My father has given us gifts beyond treasure and measure. I love my Dad. He is a life force in our family. I hold my vigil at the hospital because I can’t be anywhere else.

When I left home I couldn’t wait to get on with my life. It was during those times when I needed to hear my father’s voice because of the anchor it was for me as I was sailing away. I’d call home or his office, and he’d answer (knowing it was one of his daughters calling) and he’d answer jokingly “Joe’s Deli”. His name is Bob. He’s never owned a deli. His sense of humor has always made me laugh. Today, I wait. Today I will pray and try to be a rock for my mother. Today I will wait to get a glimpse of him just to know that he is alive and will be well. Joe’s deli is temporarily on hiatus. God willing, I can’t wait for it to reopen.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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