My father, a stubborn old Dutchman who is deaf as a post.
My mother, a sweet but memory-impaired woman whose technological skills never progressed past using a television - with a dial.
Me, TC, the designated worrier of our family
Saturday morning. I have received a call from my sister to let me know that my dad is in the Emergency Room with "lung pain." I am half a continent away.
TC calls her mother's cell phone. The phone rings several times (TC imagines that her mom at first wonders why the heart monitor is ringing, and then can't find the phone, and then can't figure out what button to push to receive the call). Then the connection is made, but there is only background noise as TC hears, "I don't know how to answer it! .... No, I don't know who it was. ... Well, maybe they'll call back."
TC yells: MOM! MOM! CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Phone clicks off.
TC, sighing, dials again.
TC: Having trouble with your phone?
Mom: No, why?
TC: Never mind. How's Dad? Have they done an x-ray?
Mom: No, all they did was an EKG. Here's your dad.
TC: Hi, Dad. How are you feeling?
Dad: Hungry. I hope I get out of here before lunch.
TC, rolling eyes: Okay, well, are you going to get a chest x-ray?
Dad: They already did one! And an EKG. And they took some blood.
TC: Oh, Mom said you'd only had an EKG.
Dad: No, I had an x-ray.
Mom, in the background: When did you have an x-ray?
Dad, raising his voice: Don't you remember when they wheeled me out of here?!
Mom, dubiously: Oh yes.
Dad: Now we're waiting for the doctor. I hope someone brings me something to eat.
TC: Okay, well, I'll call back a little later.
Dad: Why don't you call back later?
TC: That's what I just said!
About an hour later, via cell phone again.
TC: Hi, Dad, how're you feeling?
Dad: Good! They brought me a hamburger! I told the nurse to order up a pizza for us.
TC, shaking her head: Okaaayyy. Well, how about your pain? What did the doctor say?
Dad: Dr. Bay? Who's he?
TC: No, what did the doctor SAY?
Dad: I have to have more tests.
TC: What kind of tests?
Dad: A CT scan, I think.
Mom, in the background: It's a clot in his lung.
Dad, raising his voice: No, that's not what they said! They don't know what it is.
Mom, in the background: Oh. I thought they said something about your lung.
Dad, irritably: They DID. Something about a spot on the x-ray.
Mom: When did you have an x-ray?
TC, sighing: Okay, well I'll call back later.
Dad: Why don't you call back later? I'm going to see if the nurse can bring me some cake or something.
About two hours later, via cell phone again.
TC: Hey, Dad, what's the story?
Dad: I have a clot in my lung.
Mom, in the background: No, that's not what they said!
TC, suddenly understanding the situation: Dad, you don't have your hearing aids in, do you?
TC: YOU'RE NOT WEARING YOUR HEARING AIDS, ARE YOU?
TC: SO YOU REALLY DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THE DOCTOR OR THE NURSE HAS BEEN SAYING TO YOU, DO YOU?
Dad: No! But your mother will tell me later.
TC, muttering: Yeah, great, we'll get all the details from the one who can't remember what year it is.
Dad: That hamburger sure was good for hospital food. I wonder if I can get one to go?
TC feels a migraine coming on.
In the end, the final diagnosis remains a mystery. For all I know, my father could have had an entire lung removed and been given some experimental nuclear medicine and turned into a hamster while he was in there. It's not like I'll ever find out - my mother doesn't even remember the visit to the ER, and my dad's still talking about that hamburger.