My momma had neck surgery today. She essentially had 3 broken discs taken out of her spine, along with removing any bone spurs, and now she has metal and plating where the discs used to be. Which basically means I was an anxious wreck all day, but not for solely for the reasons of being worried about my mom.
Let me start off by saying this: I have always hated hospitals. I was born at 27 weeks and for the first two months of my life, a hospital was the only home I ever knew. I hated going to the doctor as a kid, and spoiler alert: I hate it even more now. When I was little, my mom used to bribe me with ice cream so I wouldn't cry when I got my shots.
The last time I ever saw my dad, he was in the hospital. I got lost on the way there because my GPS took me a different way than I was used to. I cried alone in my car when I finally found the open (not blocked off by road construction) part of the lot and before I could go inside, I had to stop. To sit. To smoke a cigarette. To collect myself. To breathe. To just be.
Walking from the back corner of the hospital parking lot this morning with my mom, Bruce, and Auntie in tow was a constant flashback to that exact moment. I was grateful when we forgot to grab something out of the truck because it meant I could possibly take a moment to collect myself. I smoked my cigarette and tried to concentrate on anything but the cold air biting at my skin. Anything but the weight of that moment, crying under all the frustration from getting lost and living three hours away when your family needs you and your dad has cancer and you can't even fucking begin to be able to process that. Anything but one of two possible outcomes for today's events: life or death.
Going into today, everyone reassured me that everything would turn out just fine. My mom would be okay. You'll still have one parent at the end of this, Anna.
The part of the story that no one knows is this: the last time I saw my dad, I sat on the edge of his hospital bed. He looked more broken than I had ever seen him in those moments before we said goodbye. His hair was gray–gone were the streaks of dark brown hair I had grown so familiar with. He looked thinner than the last time I had seen him only two days before. I held his hand as he made me promise him that I wouldn't worry about him. He promised me everything would be fine. I was teary-eyed as I kissed him goodbye. Told him "I love you, Padre" one more time. I told him I would see him soon.
We sat in waiting rooms for a grand total of 7 hours today. On the end tables in the surgical waiting room, there were baskets of half-finished knitting with a simple instruction card: "Cast on 60 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until shawl is 60 inches long. Cast off." My dad's promise rang through my ears as yarn danced through my fingers. Every so often, I looked up at the list of numbers on the screen in the waiting room–always checking to make sure my mom's was still either pink (in surgery), gray (complete), or light blue (in recovery). Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine.
My mom gets to come home tomorrow afternoon. She made it through surgery like a champ. She even scolded me and told me not to drink all her wine when we went to visit her afterward, which sort of reminded me of something my grandma would say and it made me smile tenfold.
Today I realized that ultimately, my dad was right. Everything is fine. Through all the storms we may weather, and all the bad stuff that happens to us, we will always come out on the other side still fighting. I have survived everything I have lived through up to this point—including losing him. I will survive through everything else life throws at me, including my mental illnesses and the fact that no one is getting any younger.
Momma, I'm ecstatic beyond words that you're okay. Padre, I miss you. And everyone else, if you made it this far, go eat a cookie and know that I love you for reading.