Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 9, 2009: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - "Silver and Gold"

The late post for Friday's song of the day is a result of one of the more emotionally draining weekends of my life.

I set my alarm for 5:10 AM on Friday morning. If you know me, you're probably aware that my normal bedtime falls somewhere between 3 and 4 AM. I think I somehow made it to sleep a little before midnight on Thursday night, though. Maria and I ventured into the dark, cold morning on our way to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. We made our way into the building and up to the second floor, where we met my brother Jim who led us to the rest of the family. His fiancee Carissa and my parents were in a small room, my dad in a hospital gown, sitting up on a hospital gurney.

This was planned. A few months ago, following the results of an angiogram and after meeting with his doctor, Dad had made the decision to have triple-bypass surgery and a valve replacement on his heart. The blockage in three arteries was 70%, 80%, and 90%, respectively. In other words, he was a heart attack waiting to happen if he wasn't proactive.

My parents originally thought the surgery would take place in November, but eventually decided to push it back until after the holidays. Over the last couple of weeks, the immense reality started hitting all of us. We had been reassured by so many friends that this was routine stuff these days. Like changing a tire, as far as medical technology has come. Still, this was a big deal. This was scary. And Dad was scared. I've never seen him scared in my life, but I could tell he was terrified.

But, there we were at the hospital, before dawn on Friday morning. We gave hugs, told him we loved him, and tearfully wished him well. Then we were excused into the waiting room. Over the next seven hours, we played games, read magzines, newspapers, and books, and visited the hospital cafeteria for breakfast and lunch. Maria and I took a break around 10:00 to drive home to let our puppy out. We drove back to the hospital and waited some more. Finally, around 2 PM, the surgeon came out to tell us the operation was a success. They were stitching him up and transferring him to intensive care. He was still sedated, but we would be able to see him within the hour. While Jim and Carissa left to let their dog out, Mom, Maria, and I made our way to the ICU, where we saw Dad resting. Tubes, hoses, and bandages everywhere, but he was breathing. That's all he wanted and all we wanted.

We left and drove home to get our pup. We brought her back to my parents' house so the dogs, who had been locked up all day, could play together. We ordered dinner, ate, and drove back to the hospital. When we returned, around 6:30, he was awake intermittently. He couldn't talk, but could make hand gestures. Mom and Carissa told him how great he looked. He flipped 'em the bird. That was the highlight of my day, and the happiest middle finger I've seen in my entire life!

He's improved a little each day. We all stayed at my parents' house on Friday night. He called around 7:30 on Saturday morning to tell my mom to bring him some Diet Coke when we came in. There are still a few hurdles that I don't need to get into, and lots of work ahead for him, but it looks like we're through the hardest part. Thank God. I mean that.

As for "Silver and Gold," it just felt comforting that day. I had my iPod with me, and I listened to this song several times. It was recorded just weeks before Joe Strummer died of a surprise heart attack. It was released a few months after his death, the closing track on his incredible final album Streetcore. It's a reminder that none of us know how much time we have, and maybe we need these little (or big) reminders to help us live as best we can.

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