It is Monday, July 16th, my mom and I are in Methodist Hospital waiting for four hours for the outcome of my father’s open heart surgery. We stand up at the glimpse of Dr. Zorilla entering the waiting room. “The surgery went well, better than I expected. Your father is as strong as a rock.“ When awake, his first gestures were the ones of the violin playing; his first question was if we rescheduled the violin lessons for his students. He looked frail, old and helpless. It was hard to accept it was my father, who I remember always being very strong and independent. Since that morning, my mom and I were camping at Methodist Hospital in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. This was the beginning of the week that shook my world.
It all started a month earlier, while I was on vacation in Spain. I found out that my dad was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. My family tried not to ruin my vacation; they let me know what was happening 5 days into his stay there. I cut my trip short and arrived to the hospital directly from the airport. “Your father needs an aortic valve replacement,” was the verdict, “or he will have no more than one year to live.” My father is 78 and not in the best of health. This was not the greatest news. It took him another month to make a decision to have an open heart surgery. On the scheduled day, we had to be at the hospital at 6 am. On the way there he was joking and telling us not to worry, that everything will be fine.
A night before the surgery, I was looking at family albums and stumbled on my childhood pictures. It brought back an array of memories. That evening I had no idea if my dad would survive the procedure and all these memories brought tears to my eyes. Among others were our vacation pictures. Every summer the Moscow Philharmonic orchestra would perform in Urmala, a vacation spot at the Baltic Sea in Latvia. My mom and I would join my dad there for two months. He and his orchestra were playing concerts every night at the beautiful concert hall two minutes from the beach. Vacationers would dress up for the concerts and go for a promenade afterwards. I found pictures of my dad and me swimming together during those memorable summers.
I have to admit that I have some unresolved childhood issues with my dad, but don’t we all!? He is an eccentric man in a way and sometimes it is hard to see what is behind his rough front. My father is closer to my brother Mark than me; they share their passion over violins. Now in his late 70s, he still manages to make me very angry once in a while. To my dismay, while spending a lot of time in the hospital, I realized that I am a lot like him in many ways. He is a fighter, he is stubborn, and he never gives up. He would rather risk his life than live in uncertainty. During this week, I have developed a compassion for my father that I never had before. Looking at him, I see myself at 78, reacting to things the same way he does…
There is still a long way to full recovery and I will be there for my father all the way. On the 5th day after his surgery, he asked for his violin, and was walking long distances to the amazement of the great team of nurses of the sixth floor unit. I am eternally grateful to the brilliant team of my father’s doctors: Dr. Zorilla, heart surgeon, Dr. Glasser, anesthesiologist, Dr. Triana, cardiologist, and our family angel Dr. Kayser. Next week my father will go home to the things he loves: my mom and his violins. I am sure his strong will, persistence and his music will carry him through this difficult time. In addition to a new valve in his heart, he gained my friendship. This week that shook my world has miraculously repaired my relationship with my father.