Shane Page made a quick call to his daughter, LeAnn, as he waited in the hospital lounge. “Hey, Dad, what’s up? You sound kind of upset.”
“LeAnn, Grandpa had a heart attack…”
LeAnn’s dark brown eyes grew large. “Is Grandpa dead?”, she asked. She was fourteen years old, and a wise, sensitive girl who cared a lot about her grandpa.
“No, not that, hon. The doctor says he will recover, but he had some blockages and he needs some fixing up. He’s resting right now, pretty comfortably. I just wanted you to know where I was and that I’m okay—so don’t you worry. Look out after your brother…” He sighed in exhaustion and ran his fingers through the top of his dark hair. “It’s going to be a while before I’m home.”
“Well, wait a minute!” she protested. “Why can’t Trevor and I go with you? Maybe Mom can drive us up there.”
Shane started to raise his voice, “Leave your mom out of this!” Then he realized his tone was a bit harsh and said more calmly, “You two got school tomorrow and there’s no need for you to be here now. Anyway, I don’t want to involve Mom.”
Shane and his wife, Megan, have been separated for four months now. It would be more than likely that they would be getting divorced. LeAnn, and her brother, Trevor—who was eleven-years-old—were staying with their father. It worked out that they remain in their home.
“Dad”, LeAnn insisted. “She’s still our mom…”
“Just look out for Trevor. Ok?”
Shane got off the phone, and just sat there staring at the television but having no real desire to even pay any attention. That was the farthest thing from his mind. Around him were a few other tired people, looking about as frustrated, tired or worried as he was.
It has been a trying year for him. Still struggling with his marriage issues and now he was dealing with his father’s health problems. At age thirty-six, Shane was a young father when he married Megan. He felt it was the right thing to do considering she was pregnant at the time. The odds were against them remaining married, but they made if farther than anyone would have expected. He certainly remained married longer than his parents—who were married for seven years—but he blamed his parent’s divorce on his womanizing, cheating father, a man he did not want to follow in his footsteps.
Dr. Bakkal had spoken to Shane, earlier. “Your father’s fortunate he made it in when he did. He was in requirement of two stents, and he was resistant to having them put in. I told him if he wants to continue to live, he’d be wise to get them. Otherwise, he’ll be in the same boat, but now we can prolong his life.”
“So he’s refusing?” Shane asked. That was his father, alright, stubbornly pigheaded to the bitter end.
“Thankfully, he signed for consent and he’s allowing you to be included in conversation over his medical issues. But really it is a good idea for him to have a power of attorney. You are his only son? ”
“Right.—I’m it”, Shane responded. “Well, that’s my dad for you. He thinks he’s got it all under control. Anyway, I’d be okay with being power of attorney, but who knows if he’d even have me. I don’t need to tell you he’s a stubborn man. He’s a proud man—too proud.”
“That he is”, Dr Bakkal agreed. “He doesn’t have a wife who can step up to the plate?”
Shane laughed a little. “He’s had four wives. My mom was the first. The lady he has been seeing now I’m sure saved his life. She was the one who demanded he go to the hospital and she drove him here. But she called me up and says she’s done with him.” The strain was obvious, as it was written all over Shane’s face. “He’s a headache, Doctor. He drinks too much. He smokes. He has yet to meet a vegetable…”
The doctor stated, “But things don’t sink in until we are forced to face them, sometimes. And he thinks because he looks alright on the outside, he’s okay on the inside—a fairly handsome man—a ladies man—who is, one used to being his own boss.”
Shane agreed, but his face was grimaced. “That he is, Doctor. That he is. Yeah, but when the ladies get wind that he ends up treating them pretty shabbily—well, I’m not going to fill in the details. Four wives should tell you the answer.”
Dr. Bakkal put his hand on Shane’s shoulder. “Ah, but you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. I’ve no doubt you have some sense.”
Nodding his head—drifting in and out of sleep—Shane continued to wait in the lounge. Soon, Shane’s dad, Carl, had been able to get into his own room. Shane was able to go in and see him. Like Carl had told one of the nurses, he was “all wires, tubes and coils” and he had “enough numbers lighting up on fancy gadgets to keep the place busy” as his vitals were constantly monitored. Soundly sleeping, he seemed much smaller in his hospital bed with his face half shielded by an oxygen mask. What a strange sight it was. He hadn’t seen his dad in the hospital since his gall bladder surgery several years ago. It was a bit unsettling for Shane to see him this way.
He didn’t want to wake his dad, so Shane just grabbed up a chair and sat by the foot of the bed. Before long, he had fallen asleep, too. When his phone range, he was entirely confused as to the time, even to what day it was.
“Hey, Dad, how’s grandpa doing?”
Looking at his watch and then peering out into the darkness out the window, he answered, “What’s that I hear…in the background? LeAnn, is that your mother there?”
“Yeah, Dad, I told her. She felt like we needed her and she’s making dinner for us.” Megan could be heard in the background talking with Trevor.
Shane frowned. “Oh, great! Didn’t I tell you not to involve Mom? You are perfectly capable of cooking, LeAnn. You do a good job, and—“
LeAnn abruptly handed her mother the phone. “Shane”, Megan said. “You can shut me out from helping you, but you can’t shut me out from helping my kids. Don’t act like you couldn’t use a hand.”
“I’ll be home soon”, he insisted. “It’s really not necessary. I’m not trying to be a **** about it…”
“You stay there as long as you need to. I can call Uncle Sal and tell him you might not be into work tomorrow.”
Shane worked as a manager and mechanic in his maternal uncle’s car repair shop. “Megan, I am quite capable of doing this kind of stuff, you know!” He hesitated and gave in to what he saw as interference. Perhaps, guilt compelled her to come over. After all, she was the one who walked away. She was the one who was unfaithful, the one who strayed. He added, “You want to look after the kids—then fine. I’ll worry about me”.
“Well, you got it! I won’t interfere too much in your life, Shane. You’re just a chip off the old block,” she remarked, referring to his stubborn father. “The kids and I are doing just fine. I got it covered! Okay?”
“Hi, Dad! Love you!” Trevor boomed out from the background.
Megan laughed. “You caught that, didn’t you? I think the whole neighborhood did”.
There was no use trying to resist Megan’s help. “Tell the kids that their grandpa is comfortable, sleeping like a log. They can see him soon enough.” He stopped as a nurse came into the room to check in on his father. They briefly smiled at each other.
“Give them each a kiss and a hug for me”, he said, lastly, almost choking up. He wished it was like it was before—the four of them under one roof. But that was not going to happen.
Shane met Megan at a party. She was a college student learning to be a teacher. He was working for his uncle in his auto repair shop. The plans were set for Shane to take over that shop one day. Uncle Sal had three daughters, none of them the least bit interested in taking over the business. When he met Megan, he was doing well for himself.
It was love at first sight for him. He was attracted to her fun loving personality, as well as her beauty. Her blue-green eyes would light up the room. At first, Megan wasn’t feeling the same way. Shane did slowly grow on her, this “grease monkey” with his serious nature and beyond his years. They would talk about their future together, for they really did enjoy each other’s company. But then reality hit them in the face when Megan became pregnant with LeAnn, and they married very soon. He wanted to marry her anyway, but now it was a matter of integrity. Shane wanted his child to have parents who were married and for his kid to know him better than he knew his dad.
Megan gave up on her schooling, not becoming the teacher that she dreamed of. Shane often wondered if she resented him for this—like it was entirely his fault—though Megan never expressed that to him. A few years later and Trevor came. Plans to go back to school were put on hold. That light in those eyes seemed to grow dim, but he didn’t really notice that she was unhappy. He seemed to lose focus.
Such thoughts were punishing at this time, and he tried to bury them deep down. It was amazing that he was able to have a sound sleep in the hospital, resting in the chair in his father’s room. Next time he opened his eyes, the sun was shining. He looked up, disoriented a bit, as he noticed his dad looking at him, a small smile on his face and no more oxygen masks.
“Hell, Son”, Carl said in a gruff voice.. “You look worse than I do”. Carl’s thick head of grey hair was disheveled, and his usually, neatly trimmed mustache was invaded by surrounding ****** stubble.
Shane got up and stretched and said back, “Thanks, Dad. Good morning to you, too.” He looked at his watch and added, “Glad you’re alive. You scared the hell out me. You got your grandkids worried.”
“Well…get me out of this ****** hospital and I’ll show you I can get around just fine”.
“Whoa! Whoa! Superman—you are not! Just lay back, relax a while, and do what the doctors tell you.”
“Like what?” Carl asked with a furrowed brow.
Shane was careful not to lose his temper. “Well, for one, you can quit smoking. Two, you can give up the *****. Three—take your cholesterol medicine…”
“Ok….ok….you sound like your mother now”.
Shane knew it would go in one ear and out the other. He stood by the window looking down in the parking lot. “Yeah, Dad, Maybe I do sound like Mom, but someone’s got to tell it to you straight. Put some sense into you. Stop just for once and think of someone else besides you. If no one else, think of LeAnn and Trevor.” He paused and added, “Think about me for once.”
Carl laughed and mocked him, “Poor, little Shane’s got it so bad. I’m not against you, Son, okay? You’re a big boy, so man up! I’m sixty-nine years old! My old man was gone by fifty.” He started having one of his coughing spells, his cough like an old smoker’s cough.
Shane shot him a sharp look. “I guess I’m a fool to expect any better. Can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear—as mom always says. Obviously, just wasting my time here!” He went to grab his jacket to leave.
Carl boomed, cheerfully, “Well speak of the devil!”
“What?” Shane asked, unaware of what was going on. He turned around and there was his mother standing in the doorway. He smirked and said, “Mom, I’m surprised to see you! LeAnn, right? ”
Rosina smiled and nodded as she entered the room. With salt and pepper hair, and an olive complexion, she commanded the room with her presence. Carl always referred to her as “Queen Bee”, for she had that quality—regal like a Roman statue when he first laid eyes on her—though she was down-to-earth in reality.
Carl groaned at the thought of her coming. “Is it safe for a person to be in here?” she asked, in her grand entrance. She whipped Carl a stern glance. I’m not here for you!” Then she gave a look of concern her son, and told him, “I’m here because I’m supporting you, my dear. And yes, LeAnn called me.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek, and a quick hug, and he returned the loving gesture.
“Mom, you didn’t need to drive over an hour to come up here. But since you are—have a seat.”
“You sure as hell didn’t, Rosie”, Carl echoed.
“Oh be quiet!” she ordered Carl, putting him in his place. She dismissed the offer of the seat, and told her ex- husband. “I’m worried about my only son, but I also am interested in how you’re doing…if my grandchildren will still have a grandfather. Take better care of yourself and maybe they will.”
Shane comments were sardonic. “Maybe miracles still happen…like quitting smoking, boozing, and maybe doing some walking and healthier eating…but since when has Dad ever listened to you or me?”
Carl attempted to sit up and get out of bed, but the effort was ridiculous. He groaned in pain. “Give a poor guy some rest, already! You two are just a couple of nags!”
Rosina sneered. “Old nag—old hag—*******—say what you want about me, but you know I’m right! Anyway, you are outnumbered. Or am I, Shane, and the nurses and doctors all talking out their rear ends?”
Carl made a face. If only he could just get out of here.
“Honey”, she said to Shane. I’ll be downstairs in the cafeteria. I’d like some coffee. You can join me down there if you’d like and we can talk.”
“In a little while, Mom, thanks”, he replied.
Rosina walked up closer to Carl and put her hand lovingly upon his chest. “I really do want you to get well, old man. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care.”
“I know you do”, Carl admitted. “That is one of your faults. You don’t stay ****** forever.”
Carl was more scared than he would let on. He hated hospitals. He would do anything to just be back home in his recliner, watching a football game and having a few beers. What he wouldn’t do for just one puff on a smoke, too. Anxious, he tried to hide his fear, but it was just a smoke screen. He didn’t want anyone to know how he truly felt, nor did he want anyone to feel sorry for him.
There was silence for several minutes. Shane had said all that he should say. After all, he knew his dad probably wouldn’t listen. “Hey, Dad”, he finally said. “LeAnn’s going to her school dance. There’s a boy that likes her, but I’m really not ready for that.”
Carl grinned. “She’s a pretty girl, alright. Takes after her grandma when she was something else—way back, you know. The girl looks more like your ma than you do, though always felt you took after her look instead of me”. Carl’s background was English, Scottish and Welsh, and Rosina was full Italian. To Carl’s side of the family, he looked like his dad. To his mother’s side, he resembled her. Trevor took very much after Megan, with light brown hair and those blue-green eyes.
“Yeah, she is growing into quite a beautiful young lady”, Shane agreed “I got to still go dress shopping with her…and, oh, let the fun begin! Can’t think of anything more enjoyable than a day of running her all around the malls.”
“Well, let Megan take her, for God’s sake! Or let your mother do it.”
“Dad”, “It’s fine. It may not be my thing, but all the stuff I do with Trevor—going to his baseball games, soccer, to karate. Well LeAnn was more into that stuff but she’s getting more into girly things.”
Soon, a young woman came in with Carl’s lunch, and placed the tray in front of him on his table. “Cute, huh?” Carl remarked about her after she left. Shane did not say a word.
“You need to get back out there. Get out and meet a nice girl”, Carl said, picking over his food. Jell-O, apple sauce, broth, a roll and juice—he wanted a hamburger. But how could he get a good one here? There were too many “spies” as he called them watching over him.
At the moment, Shane seemed miles away from his dad. Whatever he was saying made no impact. He made it a point not to speak of his problems with Megan to his father, and he liked it that way. By Shane’s expression, he felt his son was holding back on something. But the truth was, so was he hiding something.
“I got myself into this mess, I know”, Carl declared about his heart attack. “I came close to saying, ‘Sayonara—that’s all, folks!’” His remarks were typical—just blow everything off. He joked as if he wasn’t fazed by it all.
Shane had now closed his eyes, and kicked back a little, “Uh huh”, he agreed, though he was simply responding without thinking about what Carl really said.
Carl didn’t want to be tuned out. He had something to get off his chest. He said, “ Well, all that’s done and said, maybe this is the right time to tell you. Got plenty of time here with my own thoughts.” He hesitated, for it wasn’t easy for him to say it. “ It’s bout time you know”, he said. “I think with me almost bitin