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Giving thanks in spite of THE call

Either that or some drunk idiot in the village was desperately trying to find his way home by dialing a fuzzy number he was given four hours ago at the FUBAR by a person he thinks (and hopes) he remembers as being female.

“Mom’s had a heart attack” were the first words I heard from my brother, older by two and a half years.

It is amazing how quick the human brain can wake up.



I cringed for the next line, assuming the worst but somehow immediately hoping for the best.

“She didn’t make it” was already busy occupying my thoughts, which were traveling at the speed of Sarah Schleper in Aspen (before she missed that gate).



“She’s in ICU,” he said. Not exactly the end of her personal rope, but not altogether helpful, either.

“How’s Dad?” was the first lucid line in English I could manage.

“How do you think?”



My brother never was one for under-reacting with subtlety.

“He’s not doing too good, is he?”

It wasn’t really a question.

“Duh” was the comeback from the King of Understatement.

I’m 43, he is 45, and we have both been prepared (at least we hoped so) for these fateful moments, the inevitable ones each of us on the planet face at some point in time.

The loss of a parent.

In an instantly reflective moment, I found myself lying face down in bed with the phone sitting in the vicinity of my ear, not really listening.

Instead, I pondered about life being a race we can never win, a mountain where we are never allowed to reach the top, yet we are all competitors for at least a little while.

My mom and dad have done the best with what they had. They both competed well at times, poorly at others, but always with integrity.

In many ways, they were both blessed with much more than most. But according to their own personal descriptions, neither reached the plateaus of life they felt they were destined for.

In other words, as exceptional as they both were as parents, together they chased a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams.

It took 30 hours, but with wonderful assistance from Frontier Airlines (I mean it this time), I finally made it down to Texas.

“Evidently, Mrs. Carnes, you had a heart attack within the last two months or so … “

“But I did not have …”

“And this is what caused the backup of fluid into your lungs, thus prompting a second heart attack Saturday night.”

“Now hold it right there, Doc,” blared my mom, the undisputable Texas Queen of Self-Diagnosis. “If I had a heart attack last month, I would know it, by God, and nobody’s going to S “

The doctor, a 50-something, handsome Italian, simply smiled as she continued. He had obviously excelled in Bedside Manner 101 and picked up on the CS (Carnes Sarcasm) prevalent throughout the room, especially since my arrival.

After a few minutes, Mom was finished with her dissertation on how she could not have possibly already had a heart attack and perhaps he should re-study the symptoms of such over the Internet, which is where he obviously learned it in the first place.

“Young lady,” he said to my 72-year-old mom while staring intently at a colorful chart of some sort, “you not only had a previous heart attack, you had a BIG heart attack just recently, and if you listen to me and do exactly as I say for the next 48 hours, you just might live long enough to torment a few more of my nurses.”

At that point he looked up at her, while a small smirk grew across his face. He had made his point, and he had control, at least for the moment.

“Whatever,” said Mom, guaranteeing stubbornness until her last breath.

The rest of my Colorado family joined us Tuesday, as had been originally planned months before this unexpected emergency. The doctor, proving Rocky Mountain irony is alive and well, left the same day for a family Thanksgiving ski trip to – yes, you guessed it – Beaver Creek.

Small world.

The man who had just saved my mom’s life was being taught how to ski by ski instructors my wife had just scheduled the previous week.

I sure hope he had a good time.

Mom is fine, for now. Although a major artery was 100 percent blocked, it is now clear, thanks to a medicinal roto-rooter and what looked like a tiny piece of PVC pipe. With no smoking and a proper diet, she should be tormenting nurses, neighbors, family members and just about anyone else she comes into contact with for a few more years.

God bless handsome Italian doctors who work in Texas.

Carnes Thanksgiving 2002 was certainly one for the memory books. I’m just glad one particular person’s final chapter has yet to be written.

Richard Carnes of Edwards can be reached at poor@vail.net


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