My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf
So it stood ninety years on the floor.
I’m not ninety, he thought, but from what doc said, it sounds like my heart might as well be.
What had been ordered as a routine treadmill could not be completed when the tech had to stop it because he had nearly passed out. He was immediately admitted and scheduled for an angiogram to look at his coronary arteries.
It must be bad, if doc thought I couldn’t even go home before the angiogram. That he wanted me where they could watch me. He didn’t say it, but he must have been worried that I’d have a heart attack and die at home. This is so unfair. I exercise regularly, I jog, I watch what I eat, I quit smoking long ago. What good was all of that? Laurie and I just started to travel after retiring five years ago. Now maybe she’ll be going alone if I can’t travel anymore–or if I’m gone. Doc said not to worry since he won’t know till after the tests. That’s what he told Laurie and me. I told Laurie not to worry too, that she should go home and get some sleep and we’ll see tomorrow. How many tomorrows do I have left? ‘Don’t worry. Try to get some sleep.’ Easy for him to say. I asked him what he thought I’d need done. Told me again, ‘don’t worry, we’ll cross that river when we come to it.’ What if I can’t swim I replied. He laughed and said ‘glad you have a sense of humor. If you can’t swim I guess we’ll have to build you a bridge.’ Humor—yeah, gallows humor. I’m monitored too—at least the nurses won’t keep coming in all night and waking me to check my vital signs. Laurie went home after my dinner—clear liquids for me—for my morning angiogram.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born—
Weird—who buys a grandfather clock for a baby present? Better skip the next lines, not that I’m superstitious or anything. Better try to sleep, rest up for tomorrow.
Sleep? Who gets to sleep on a busy hospital floor? All the unfamiliar sounds, magnified and compounding anxiety. The comings and goings; the beeps and chimes of monitors, iv pumps, and whatever else; the nurses and aides talking in the hall; the pages for the code team; gurneys wheeling patients in or moving them elsewhere; the patient who’s raving up the hall. Bits and flashes of memory between snatches of sleep—of good times and the should have and could have times. But the grey morning sky shows at last outside the window after a restless night.
Ninety years without slumbering, tic toc, tic toc.
His life seconds numbering, tic toc, tic toc,
And the gurney is here to take me to my test and some answers, maybe. Ask not for whom the gurney comes, the gurney comes for thee. Doc seems bright and cheerful this morning. How did I sleep he asks? Does it matter? Hope he had a good night’s sleep—steady hands. I’m starved. Hope I can eat afterwards.
Laurie’s already waiting in my room. ‘You came early, honey. No, I feel alright. How was the drive in with the morning traffic? Did you get some rest? Yeah, me too. Doc was able to do it quickly. No I don’t know what it showed. Doc said he’d talk to both of us a little later after he studies it some more. Did you have breakfast? You can go to the cafeteria. They said they’d bring me something to eat soon.’
So. It’s got to be surgery. Can’t use stents in my case. And the sooner the better. ‘But doc, I’ve been jogging, playing tennis, cutting down on fats. How could this happen to me?’ ‘Remember Jim Fixx, the running guru?’ he said. ‘Dropped dead at 52. Fit and trim except for his heart. The way your coronaries look, you’re lucky you’ve been okay up till now.’ Right, lucky—up till now.
His life seconds numbering, tic toc, tic toc,
But it stopped short, never to go again when the old man died.
Glad I didn’t cancel the insurance policy. And the house is almost paid off. Laurie is strong and level-headed. She’ll do fine if……yeah, she’ll do fine. Didn’t tell anyone else. It’s all happening so fast.
There’ll be time enough afterwards, however things go. Doc said that the success rate is over 95%. Focus on that, not the 5%. Laurie’s palm is wet, mine too. And the gurney has come for me. ‘Laurie honey, I’ll see you after this is over, okay? I love you.’
Rolling along through the halls to the OR. Going so fast — tic toc, tic toc, tic, toc, tic toc — We’re there. Shift to the table. Anesthesia now — tic toc, tic toc tic toc tic
“Waking up, Mr. John? Welcome back to Recovery. All done. You did really well and we’ll let Mrs. John in soon.” She sounds so cheerful. I made it! I’m alive! I made it.
—toc, tic toc, tic toc, tic toc, tic toc—
To Life! To Love!