I was hospitalized when I was four with a severe kidney infection. One of my most tender childhood memories is of how my Dad stayed with me there. It was Christmastime and he'd give me rides around the hospital halls on top of my I.V. There was a big gingerbread village in the lobby and he'd wheel me over there as often as my condition permitted.
I remember a nurse putting a leaf of spinach under the green jello cube she brought me and saying something like, "I won't take your plate until you're eaten every last bite."
To this day, the combination of jello + spinach feels really gross, but lucky for me, my dad ate it without saying a word when she came back for the plate. Overall, my memory of that hospital stay is really all about feeling love for my dad. I don't remember feeling pain or fear. In retrospect, I only remember feelings of safety and love.
On Tuesday, my dad experienced a massive heart attack that should've ended his life. He was at work, speaking with a coworker outside of his office when the initial symptoms hit. A good team of health care workers sped him to a hospital where another good team of health care workers performed the procedures that saved his life.
In the days following, I kept him company at his bedside with my mom and other family members dropping by. I fed him a bowl of red jello and helped him sip water from a big hospital mug. As things got better, I fed him a piece of low-calorie, low-sodium apple pie and some steamed broccoli. I put chapstick on his oxygen-tube-dried-out-lips and spoke quietly with him about the days when he cared for me in a hospital bed.
I love my dad so much. I feel enormously humbled and grateful that he's still around.