Closer to the Heart

A few months back my father purchased a cheap cellular phone that he could keep in the glove compartment of the car in the event that the car broke down when Mom was driving it or if she needed to get a hold of him in an emergency.

The idea itself seemed quite sound however the phone never worked properly from the first day Dad got it. If you called someone on it, the thing hissed and buzzed and the person could barely make out what you were saying between the gaps of dead air.

In the rare event that someone called you on it, the reception was so poor that you could never hear the caller in any event.

This however was not a huge issue as the battery in the phone would continually need recharging after a ten minute call. Of course my father, being the frugal individual that he is, refused to hear about any of the phones shortcomings as he had purchased it from one of his "good buddies" and honestly believed he had gotten the best deal in the world. Realizing that we were getting nowhere with Dad about replacing the phone, we all just decided to drop the subject hoping it would never be brought up again or be an issue.

This proved to work marvellously up until this past Monday, when this damn telephone caused me more stress and aggravation then I have experienced in a very long time. Let me explain.

I had just returned to my office after an afternoon of meetings and was putting on my coat to go home when I noticed the message light was blinking on my phone. Being that I didn't want to have to deal with this stuff first thing tomorrow morning, I dutifully sat down and started going through the five messages.

All appeared routine until I got to the last one which was from my Mother. She was apparently calling from that damn car cellular phone and I could barely make out what she was saying. The call sounded like this:

"This is Mom calling. SSSSSSSSSssssss........, father SSSSSSSSSssssss....heart attack..........I... SSSSSSSSSssssss.... coming home..... SSSSSSSSSssssss.... hospital........ SSSSSSSSSssssss please come over .......SSSSSSSSSssssss......"

The "SSSSSSSSsssss" was all static and I could hear nothing else aside from the words I listed above. Those words however were enough to get me extremely panicked and I rushed out of the office towards my parents house as quick as I could.

My father had suffered a heart attack about 8 or 9 years ago, just after he retired. He was now in better shape, being that he was ordered by his doctor at that time to start getting some exercise, eat a proper diet and was given some heart pills. He has been in pretty good health ever since, although now being in his seventies, one never knows what to expect.

As I was driving over to my parents, I recalled all the empty promises I had made to myself to be nicer to Dad and to enjoy his company more after the last heart attack. I made those promises years ago, but never kept them very well. Once he got better, I forgot all about them & our relationship went back to normal. Now as I was racing over to the house, I prayed that it was not too late.

I tried to call Mom back on the cell phone however it kept going to voice mail as either she was not answering or had the phone shut off. This only scared me more and as I pulled up to the house, a million different horrible thoughts went through my head. I only hoped it was not too late.

I raced through the front door and found that Mom had just gotten home only a minute or so before I had arrived.

"Oh Hello Son", she said to me in her usual cheery manner. "I am so glad you got my message. I was hoping to see you before I went back out"

"How's Dad", I asked rather abruptly, desperate to know the worst.

"Well" Mom responded. "He is pretty shaken up and is still at the hospital. But it looks like everything will be fine. I thought that since that was the case that I would still be able to get back here and pick up some old clothes and other odds and ends before I go down to the community centre for the rummage sale."

I was horrified. My father, her husband of 53 years, had just suffered a heart attack and Mom was still planning to go about her days business without a care in the world. Either Mom was in total denial or in some state of advanced shock. She must have noticed the alarmed expression on my face because she suddenly stopped and stared at me.

"Are you feeling okay, Son. Because you don't look well all of a sudden" Mom asked, sounding oddly perplexed.

Regaining my composure, I responded that I was just somewhat surprised that she was so calm and 'matter of fact' about things after everything that had just happened.

Mom continued staring at me oddly and then finally responded.

"Well Charlie is getting rather old, Son. He is 12 years old which is about 84 in dog years. This is not overly-surprising for a dog of his age. I am just surprised you are taking this so hard, I never thought you cared for the old dog so much."

Charlie, of course is my fathers best pal and the worst pet known to man. He is their demonic dog, who should have been put down at birth. This mangy beast was the meanest and nastiest animal I had ever encountered and I did not hide my contempt for this creature. For some unknown reason, he is also loved dearly by my father.

"What are you talking about Mom?" I asked trying to figure out what the Hell she was going on about.

"It was old Charlie that suffered the heart attack." Mom responded suddenly realizing my confusion. "I had called you after your father and me had been to the Animal Hospital. Your father was going to stay behind while they examined and treated Charlie and I was coming back here to go out. I had telephoned you to ask that you come over here and wait for your father to call so you could go over and collect them since I have the car."

It was a horrible and terrible misunderstanding on my part. I collapsed in the kitchen chair and just began laughing as I was so relieved it was not my Dad that had suffered a heart attack.

Once I informed Mom about the 'misunderstanding' she was going to cancel going out as she realized the last "hour of Hell and stress" I had just gone through. I advised her I was okay now and insisted that she go out and I would head over to the Animal Hospital to pick up Dad and the horrible beast.

As I drove over to the Hospital, I vowed I was going to take that cheap cell phone and crush it mercilessly under the heel of my boot. I was never going through that kind of stress again. EVER!

I went into the lobby and found Dad talking with one of the Veterinary assistants. He seemed very pleased to see me and thanked me for coming.

Just then the Veterinarian came out of his office, carrying a large oversized basket with Charlie fast asleep inside on a big comfy pillow.

He explained to my father that Charlie had experience a mild heart attack and would need to be kept calm and quiet over the next few weeks. He would prescribe some light sedatives to keep the dog calm and resting however being that Charlie was this old, he could have another attack which may be fatal at any time. For this he would prescribe some heart medicine which was a tablet that Charlie was to take with his meal every day.

My father was overjoyed that Charlie was going to be okay and thanked the Veterinarian repeatedly for his work.

"Old Charlie here is like a son to me. I don't know what I would do if he was gone." Dad advised the doctor.

I couldn't believe my ears. Dad was describing Charlie, the demonic dog from Hell, as being 'like a son' to him. What did that make me, a second cousin? A good pal? I was incensed. Before I could interrupt and demand clarification of this outlandish statement, Dad looked over at me.

"Boy, your mother and me left the house so quickly to rush poor old Charlie over here, I forgot my wallet at home. Would you mind paying the good people here for me?"

Realizing that I had vowed to be nicer and more agreeable with my father earlier today, I figured this might be a good way to start. I pulled out my wallet and went over to the cashier.

All I had was $100.00 bill on me, so I certainly hoped that this place could give me change right away and not have to go find someone to break such a large bill.

The receptionist handed me the invoice and I almost collapsed for a second time today. The bill was for $545.00 plus tax!

"Dad", I called over to him. "Have a look at this bill."

Dad grabbed the invoice and quickly glanced at it, nodded and handed it back to me.

"Seems very reasonable to me", Dad responded. "I would pay five times that to have poor old Charlie in good health again. Pay the bill, boy."

I was still not satisfied. This invoice was ridiculous. $545.00 to revive some mean old mangy dirty dog. That is crazy, what a scam!

"What about this, Dad?" I continued. "Look, the price of these sedatives are insane...$75.00. Charlie doesn't need them, he sleeps 23 hours a day as it is. Can we return them?"

"Pay the bill, boy and stop wasting time." Dad responded sounding like he was getting annoyed. "We need to hurry and get poor Charlie home. He needs bed rest. Hurry up, we'll be in the car"

With that he left the Hospital, carefully carrying Charlie in his fancy new $65.00 dog basket to my car.

I threw down my credit card muttering to the cashier, grabbed my receipt and followed them out.

As we drove home, I thought I would attempt to share my feelings with Dad and told him about my earlier misunderstanding about me thinking it was HE that had the heart attack and not Charlie.

Dad seemed very upset at my story or he wasn't listening properly as he barked back at me.

"Do you think that I am that old & senile that I wouldn't go to a proper doctor if I was having a heart attack or do you just think that I am such a cheapskate I would go to a veterinarian to be treated in order to save a couple of bucks?"

This of course got me somewhat annoyed and I responded that "Clearly at the inflated prices that damn Vet charges, it would be no bargain for a human to be treated there."

The rest of the ride we drove in complete silence, being both too stubborn & too exhausted to try and attempt any further meaningful conversation.

Once we arrived back home, Dad immediately gathered some blankets and pillows to make a soft bed for Charlie to continue his nap on. He then placed both his food and water dish next to the bed so "Poor Charlie doesn't have to go far for refreshment."

Throughout this process, Dad was muttering about "Poor Charlie this" and "Poor Charlie that" which got me to thinking he cared for the damn dog more than any of us 'two-legged creatures'.

I figured I had experienced enough stress and excitement for the day and decided I would go home. Before I left I was expecting to be reimbursed for the Vet bill however my father seemed far to pre-occupied with Charlie's immediate comfort then my newfound poverty. I figured I would drop a few hints to the old man to jog his memory.

"So Dad" I started out slowly. "Now you and old Charlie are home safe & sound, I guess I'll be leaving. I need to go to the bank before they close."

Dad, who was sitting next to Charlie patting the dogs head, looked up at me and absent-mindedly responded.

"Er, okay Son. Thank you very much for coming to get me and the old boy here & bringing us home. We appreciate it."

Still no money was forthcoming. I figured I would make one last fleeting attempt to be reimbursed from Dad tonight.

"So", I inquired. "Drive home was okay for you and Charlie, was it? No complaints then? Nothing else you two may be needing tonight?"

Just then, the demonic Charlie began slowly waking up. He first lazily looked over at Dad and then gazed at me and almost immediately started growling.

"You seem to be aggravating poor Charlie" Dad advised me. "He needs calm and rest now. Just close the door on your way out so I can get him back to sleep."

I bid Dad goodnight and headed towards my car, $545.00 lighter than when I arrived earlier in the day.

"Stupid damn Dog, stupid cheap cell phone, stupid overpriced vet...." I muttered to myself as I drove towards home.

Now you know why I drink.


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