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Don’t take life, loved ones for granted

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Life is so fragile and unpredictable.

And full of life-changing challenges when least expected.

At least in my case, I take the day-to-day routines for granted.

Until I’m fearfully looking at the unknown, which happened this past week.

It was supposed to be a squeezed-in office consultation at my father’s cardiologist a week ago Tuesday.  My father wanted to change his heart medication. After seven trouble-free years relying on a pacemaker to keep his heart beating normally, my father started having unexpected shocks four weeks ago.

Instead of changing the medication, however, the doctor immediately checked my father into Sacramento’s Mercy General Hospital for a procedure the next afternoon that would reduce and/or stop the shocks.

My parents told me hospital staff said the prep and recovery time would take longer than the actual 30-minute ablation procedure to remove scar tissue. They urged me to spend Wednesday proofing the newspaper since that’s my hardest workday and then drive to the hospital by 6 p.m.  to say hi and have dinner with my mother.

But I didn’t want my mother to be alone so I left work early and arrived at the hospital by 4 p.m.

My father’s supposedly simple procedure lasted until 7:30 p.m. After the six-hour procedure, the exhausted doctor told my mother and me it was much harder than he expected.

The cardiologist also said it wasn’t the kind of procedure he would recommend for most 90-year-olds. He said “time would tell” about the procedure’s success.

For the next several hours in the hospital and then at home, I dwelled on the doctor’s stern words, my father’s groggy post-procedure statements of “how crummy” he felt and my mother’s uneasy glances at my mostly sleeping father.

Not knowing if my father would be OK, I saw chapters of his life flash before me and I wished I had told him every day how much I love and appreciate him.

My mother and I spent a sleepless night berating ourselves for letting life’s petty annoyances get in our way instead of concentrating daily on all the good times and conversations we have with each other.

Because all we have is today.

My father’s the most positive person I know. Since the procedure, I’m remembering my father’s wake-up routine to me when I was a child: “Good morning, world!”

That morning routine is a testament to his enthusiasm of a new exciting day ahead of us, where anything is possible.

Every so often, I realize I shouldn’t take everyday life for granted. This past week, that realization hit me hard every minute of the day and into the early hours of the morning as sleep eluded me.

And I also realized I shouldn’t let those I love take their lives for granted, either. When my parents downplayed my father’s shocks a few weeks ago, I should have driven them to the cardiologist. They were trying to talk themselves out of the medical crisis while simultaneously being very worried. But the crisis couldn’t be ignored.

On Sunday afternoon, my father was fortunately released from the hospital and he eagerly returned home with my mother and brother.

Now recuperating from his procedure and taking it easy, my father is treating each day home as a gift and not as just another typical day of the week.

February is heart month.

Every month should be heart month. We owe it to ourselves to make the effort daily to be as healthy as possible. As an aside, my father’s roommate at the hospital was a 56-year-old man.

Don’t wait weeks to hug your family. Hug them every day. Because life as we’ve become used to it can change in a moment.

I hope for another 10 years with my father and my mother. In the meantime, I will be grateful for every day with my parents.

I don’t think my family will ever take anything for granted again.