The day I saw my dad cry

It’s only happened a few times.  That I’ve seen.

When his mom died, his dad, our sweet golden retriever Cookie, and my wedding day.

And I quote his Father of the Bride speech, “I didn’t lose a daughter that day…I gained a bathroom.”  But his jokes didn’t fool me.  I saw his eyes when we had our dance.  For the 3 seconds I could handle looking before my heart was a puddle of mush on the floor.  Geeze, Dad, don’t cry.  I paid good money for this makeup job.  Or, wait.  Maybe it was your money.

Then there was this other day.

The day.

No tears of grief and loss.  No tears that told the story of a little girl and her Daddy.  Tears of fear.

There’s a lot I don’t remember.  That is typical for me.  I don’t remember a ton of details as I do how everyone felt.  And maybe what I was wearing.  Weird, I know.  It was my Senior year in high school.  I remember riding to the hospital with my mom in our sky blue Chrysler LeBaron convertible.  Top up.  I was silent.  Though my mind raced to dark places my body lay still.  Tears withheld.  Also typical for me in intense emotional situations.  But she was in hysterics.  Also typical for her (thank you menopause), but for quite good reasons.

“He could die!”  She kept saying it over and over.

It was true.  He could.

He was out for a run when he felt a little sick and then the pressure increasing.  He said it felt like someone was sitting right on top of his chest.  He was only a block from home, but sat down on a neighbor’s driveway and asked the poor neighbor lady for help.  This angel of a woman dropped everything she was doing and immediately drove my dad to the ER.

That’s when my mom got the phone call that my dad was mid heart attack.  That’s when we started driving.  That’s when I thought my dad was going to die.  But I kept those thoughts to myself because my mom was doing enough of that thought processing out loud.

My mom miraculously got us to the hospital safely and someone led us to where he was at.  I was wearing my gray hooded track sweatshirt.  Never ran track, but my field hockey coach let us raid the old uniform closet and I scored a sweet retro hoodie and a pair of sweatpants perfect for sleepovers, Saturday mornings and “that time of the month.”  Frantic from the call and car ride over I was a sweaty mess.  But rather than waste a moment tying up my hands with useless efforts of removing sweatshirts I grabbed a hold of my dad’s hand and kept begging God to spare his life.

Then he cried.

Like fear of dying cry.  Lose your wife and kids cry.  At your lowest moment cry.  I’ll do anything if cry.

Then I cried.

Then my mom, well, my mom cried harder.

But, he made it.  He didn’t die.  For whatever reason, that day he was spared and given a second chance at life.

About 600,ooo Americans each year won’t get that second chance.

So when February rolls around each year and the national campaign raising awareness for heart health is plastered everywhere I take a moment to remember this story.  Afterall, it’s this story that heavily influenced my calling to become a personal trainer.

How many of you can relate?  Maybe it wasn’t your dad.  Perhaps a grandparent or uncle, neighbor or best friend’s mom.  We all know someone who’s had a heart attack.  920,000 Americans will suffer a heart attack this year and 920,000 more stories like mine will be written.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Heart disease is highly preventable.  Highly.

What are we doing to care for our hearts?  How are we encouraging others to care for theirs?

Today, I share my story with you.

Tomorrow, I’m going for a jog.  And calling my dad.  While rockin’ my hoodie.  If I can find it, watching my wedding DVD with his speech on it because, seriously, best Father of the Bride speech.  Ever.  So thankful he was there to give it.

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