A SLIGHT HEALTH SCARE is unfolding as I ride home on the train. My dad, who has a pacemaker to regulate an irregular heartbeat, had his blood pressure spike to 190/120 just this afternoon. (They have a BP cuff at home to keep tabs when he's feeling a bit off.) I got a call from my mother just as I was leaving the office, in which she told me they were taking the entirely prudent step of heading over to the emergency room. I agreed. You don't second-guess a 70-year-old heart already getting an assist on its rhythm section.
I had to pick up from context that my father was feeling well enough to drive over himself. I asked my mother how he was feeling, but she really wanted to get on the road, so I had to remain in suspense until I got to Hoboken and onto the NJ Transit line I take. There, I called them on their cellphone, and was happy to hear my father answer. He feels well, and was waiting to be admitted. I was hopeful that this would be a swift process, this being a weeknight and only about halfway through the evening rush. He wasn't overly worried. This is typical of him: the strong, silent type. I also spoke to my mother, who was also hanging in, though with an assist from two Xanax. They suggested I call before picking a destination (their house or the ER) so I didn't make a needless trip. Not wanting to deliver a mini-thesis on how no trip I make for them is ever needless, I agreed, gave them my love, and signed off.
One never likes to think about one's parents' mortality, but I've forced myself to address it in recent years. Better to do it now, than in the emotional thick of the event. Granted, no amount of planning will make it any less painful, not even the past funerals for other family members or for a friend lost far too soon. Still, I have witnessed couple of end-life legal steps they have taken, so they know I think about such matters. My dad is less open about discussing these sorts of preparations, but they still must be made. If nothing else, I have to assure them both that I will be there to support them in their pain . . . because I know that as devastating as losing one of them will be for me, it will be nothing compared to what my surviving parent will feel.
For now, I am trying to follow my father's lead in knowing he is in the right place in case anything else develops from this, and until he gets a solid word on what may have caused this high pressure, to try not to drive himself crazy speculating about it. Getting him on the phone was a tremendous relief, I have to admit. I'll still feel a lot better when I see him and have the chance to keep my mother company to in turn ease her anxiety. If need be, I will take off tomorrow to assist with whatever — transport comes to mind most saliently. It's been some time since my mom has driven extensively for herself, and with a husband in the hospital, if he is admitted, is no time to take an impromptu remedial course. Work can go fuck itself where my parents are concerned, layoff or no.
So as we pull into the North Hackensack station and draw ever nearer to the Pascack Valley, that's where things stand. I'll do what I can to support them both and take tomorrow as it comes. I'm not to the Xanax stage yet. I'm more the pound-of-jellybeans or Doritos type. Eh, at least I can get 'em on a plane without getting sent to Gitmo or some shit.
UPDATE: All is well. By the time I stepped off the train, Dad had been admitted to the ER with a normal blood pressure. After I arrived at the hospital, my mother and I got the news that his EKG was likewise normal. The three of us spent an hour or so at his bedside, chatting normally, Dad feeling fine — if hungry, as this had hit before dinner — while we awaited the bloodwork. More good news: a slight imbalance in one of his medications, but other than that, and the admonition to call his cardiologist, he was free to go. I knocked heartily on wood, my head serving as some ersatz oak in this case, walked them to the car, and headed on home. I have one stoic SOB for a dad, but I know he was happy not to have to stay the night, necessary as it might have been. Altogether, an alarm that we are all happy to report as, thus far, false.