This past week has been sorta stressful for me. My dad had a pretty big health scare--a mini stroke. It should be "strokes" since he had more than one while at the hospital. The man will be 70 this year. (I'm adopted for those trying to do the math of how old he was when I was born, which was 44, which isn't too old to father/adopt a child now that I think about it.) Anyway... so he was going to San Antonio to have a treatment procedure for prostate cancer when the mini stroke hit. He was admitted to the hospital and several tests later they discovered a little hole in his heart, which they think had been releasing tiny blood clots that travel to his brain. We're blessed that these weren't major strokes that left him either physically or mentally altered. But still... the word "stroke" is laced with horrible "what if" thoughts.
Dad's been put on blood thinners and has a shiny new pacemaker to keep his heart rate no lower than 60 beats per minute. It was pumping at 44 beats before, which maybe normal for extreme athletes, but not my old man. I've always been concerned about that low rate--it's not normal. And no matter how many times he said "I'm fine" or "I feel fine" I still worried.
He was released from the hospital yesterday. My sister says that in his impatience to be free of his hospital bed he was really rude to people. I shudder to even imagine this as my dad can sometimes be the epitome of "grumpy old man" and loses his patience in a flash. But he's cheerful now that he's back home and I'm sure his nurses are glad not to have to put up with his crankiness.
Now that this health scare is over he's certain that he's on the cusp of death. Every time he calls me he asks if I've submitted my novel to publication. In March he told me that all he wanted for his birthday was for me to send my novel somewhere. Wish granted, I sent a query letter to HarperCollins last week only to be told my story wasn't right fit. I told my dad and he basically told me to try harder--that he doesn't have that much time left. What the hell?!? I told him not to talk like that, because honestly, the man is a beast and will probably live to be 120. He's not going to die any time soon. (We all say such things, don't we?)
Our most recent convo went like this:
"Hi Dad! How are you feeling?"
"Oh fine. So, have you sent your story to any other publishers?"
My non-verbal reaction went a little something like this: Roll eyes, put him on speaker phone, and open Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Loss Solution in full preparation to tune out the rest of our conversation.
"Um... yes, I've got a few written down."
This is a tiny lie... I have the Writer's Market sitting in front of me, but I haven't cracked the pages yet. I just don't want to hear a lecture. Besides, I'm going to send it off... I really am.
"Well, send it to more than just one this time!"
"Oh, I will... don't worry." My eyes move to the TV where I'm watching reruns of Discovery's Deadliest Catch. I'm big on multitasking.
"You've got to make sure there's action and suspense in it--or mystery. Those books sell. I know you like to read the romance ones, but you should write something with some suspense to it."
I smile. "Yup, it's got all of that."
He repeats what he last said about the suspense and mystery--he likes to repeat himself quite often. Could be old age. Could be a subconscious effort to really pound these tips into my brain. He does the same thing when he tries to tell me how to get out of credit card debt. The lectures get really old.
"You'll sell at least one copy--mom and I will buy one!"
"I want to read something you've written--I don't have much time."
What the hell?
"Ummmmm.... Ooooookkkkkkkaayyy. Let's talk more positively."
Dad doesn't elaborate and I suddenly have fears that he's not telling the whole truth about his condition. Suddenly I feel this immense pressure to find SOMEONE who will want to publish my popular novel. Anyone? I mean, I don't want to let him down. I want to be a "success" before he dies, which he makes it sound like it will be tomorrow or something. I am ever the optimist--Dad's gonna live forever.
That's a lot of pressure to put on your kid, which is not at all unfamiliar in my family. I guess I could tell him that it's not going to happen overnight, although I daydream that it will all the time. Maybe trying is all that matters. But we'll still talk about the same things whenever he calls me. The first words will out of his mouth will be: "Published yet?" Just like his first words to my sister are: "Found a job?" To my brother: "You really need to get off the drugs." To my little sister: "You need to finish high school or you'll never get a job." To my oldest brother: "Have you tried Nicorette?"
The pressures that parents put on us are intense most times. I suppose it's a good thing that I have one who cares about what I do and that I'm successful in it. He could not care at all, I guess. Still... I want to tell him to let up just a tad. And at the same time I think I need the pressure of him "not having time" (whatever that means) to motivate myself to do something FOR myself as much as it's for him. I want to be able to hand him my first novel and see the pride in his eyes. Although knowing my dad, he'd just ask how it was selling.
You can't win sometimes.