Dad has screws on the sides of his head like Frankenstein. You can see dried blood near the hairline. The contraption had a piece of metal around his head connecting the two screws on the sides. The metal piece was balanced by a 10 pound weight to keep his spine straight until surgery this morning. He was in traction. I held his hand the whole time while he related the experience of being trapped under the current of an eight feet wave, and afterward how his left arm and legs felt all tingly. He was on 3 or 4 different medications and hadn’t slept for 3 days. Laying in the intensive care bed with ivies and all sort of wires all over the bed and overhead, he was pretty delirious.
“This is the part where you promise not to be mad.” he said.
I looked at him and smiled suspiciously.
“I know. I’m a maniac. I’m an animal!” shaking his head amusingly. “I went and played an 18-hole round of golf afterward.”
“Yeah, so I heard!” I shook my head and chuckled at the idea.
“When I walked in the hospital, the guy there and I thought, at worse, I had a concussion. After he did the MRI and the CATScan, he came out with this scary look on his face. Looked at me as I was pacing, and yelled ‘How the fuck are you even standing right now? You should have been paralyzed!’ I don’t know! I didn’t feel all that well but I didn’t think I broke my neck! They wouldn’t let me leave the hospital after that. Can you believe I broke my neck? I can’t believe I broke my neck!”
“No, I can’t believe it either. I was in shock when I heard.”
“I mean, it’s one of the 5 worst things that could happen to anybody is breaking their neck! And I broke my fucking neck!” he said while staring at me in disbelief.
“Yes, dad. I know!” The news sunk in hearing it from him, and I was scared. But I reacted with a smile cause he still had a sense of humor about it.
“I had at least 10 doctors telling me I should be dead; I should be paralyzed. I shouldn’t be here. I mean, Poppy went boogie boarding when he was in his 60s, so why wouldn’t I?” he said, looking at me as if he knew my thoughts about him being too old for something like that. I didn’t say anything . . .so he went on.
“For the first time, I’m scared as shit for my life.”
I leaned over and hugged him. I kissed him on the cheek.
“I went to a steakhouse after golf and the waitress there told me I didn’t look too good. That I should check into the hospital cause it’s just down the block. If it weren’t for her, I don’t think I would have.”
“You’re so lucky! Do you know?” I said. “Well, maybe you do” I smiled. “Wait!! YOU WENT TO A STEAKHOUSE AFTER GOLF??! OHMIGOD!”
At this point I was laughing out loud. And he did too. Our laughter echoed throughout the empty hospital room.
“Yeah. I had good ribs too. Apparently, it didn’t affect my appetite!” And we laughed some more. “I still can’t believe I broke my neck though.”
“Me neither, dad. But I could believe that you went golfing and a steakhouse afterwards! ‘Cause NO ONE I know after breaking their neck would do such a thing!”
He let go of my hand and raised up his ivyed arm, pointed to the yellow plastic bracelet he was wearing, and said, “It’s will.” The bracelet said “Live Strong.”
I looked at his eyes and said, “and you have more than anyone I know, dad! You’re going to fine.”
“You know my life is richer cause you’re in it, right?” he told me, and I could’ve instantly break down and cry, but I smiled instead.
“Thank you. I love you too!”
I cried all the way home.
Thing is, he wasn’t not even my real father. Mine died when I was seventeen, on the other side of the world. One I hadn’t seen since I was eight years old.