please be okay

I know there’s a war brewing and all but what I’m going to write about today is something that, to me, is a bit more important and serious right now.

My grandpa is in the hospital.

On Monday he and Grandma traveled from their little podunk southern Iowa town to Iowa City for a routine stress test/EKG. During this test the technicians freaked out and said it was the worst they’d seen in awhile, so they made plans to do a cardiac cath the next day (yesterday).

During that test they found that he has 80% blockage in his heart and it’s a wonder he’s alive right now. He hasn’t experienced any warning signs of an impending heart attack because he’s severely diabetic and I guess that blocks the pain receptors or something. So. He has to have a quadruple bypass surgery soon. They’re still not sure when, but as soon as they can schedule it.

My mom and Ginny are planning to drive to Iowa as soon as they know when the surgery is scheduled. If it’s tomorrow they will leave tonight. If it’s next week they’ll go then. I chose not to go because I feel like I need to be at work right now, but as I’m sitting in my office worrying I really hope that I haven’t made the wrong decision by choosing work over family (something I normally never do).

He is the only grandfather I have ever known, and last night I was really hit hard with the reality that one day he’s not going to be here. I’ve always been aware of it but it’s an easy thing to push aside, especially when it comes to him.

Grandpa is in his seventies and “retired,” yet still works as a bricklayer, contractor, and owns and operates a bar in their town. He has worked hard his entire life and is a true example of the kind of person I’d like to one day be. He was an errand boy for the Chicago mafia in the 50s. He was married at 18 and had three children in the next seven years. He has worked as a contractor and bricklayer for much of his life, and has built churches all over the United States.

In his thirties he was afflicted with a disease that left him paralyzed. The doctors said he would never walk again – he said “fuck that” but got his college degree, just in case. He did walk again, and he also spent time as a college professor. He’s one of the smartest and most well-informed men I know, and can talk for hours on any given subject. He curses as much as I do, which is really saying a lot.

He has been some sort of grand poobah in the Shriners. He has been the county magistrate and the mayor of his town. He is an ordained minister and does weddings all the time. A few years ago he bought a limo just for the hell of it and made some money as a limo service before he hit a deer and subsequently got sick of driving the big-ass car.

Grandpa wanted a place where he could drink the kind of beer he liked and listen to the kind of music he wanted, so he built a bar that serves Old Milwaukee’s Best Light on tap and has a jukebox that plays nothing but the GOOD old country music – the stuff from the 40s, 50s, and early 60s that is legendary today. His average highway driving speed is 85-90 mph, and on the rare occasions when he gets pulled over he usually gets let go because all the cops know him. Nearly everyone in town calls him the Judge, and they come to his bar to listen to the stories of his adventures and to try to beat him at pool. He kicks their asses handily in nearly every game.

And that doesn’t even to begin to probe the depths of what his life has been so far.

Grandpa’s in good spirits. He’s in the hospital bitching and complaining that he wants to go home, and he threatened to haunt the surgeon for the rest of his life if they mess up on the operating table. The surgeon said that’s the first time in his career that a patient has threatened to haunt him. And the best part is that my grandpa doesn’t make idle threats – he’d totally haunt that man.

But I hope with all my heart he doesn’t have to.

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