My niece called me this afternoon while my wife and I were eating an early dinner. We had stopped at the Bubba’s Catfish-2-Go food truck for fried shrimp, fried okra, and fries (a fry-fest, I guess). Just as I was biting into a large butterly-fried shrimp, my cell rang. Caller ID named my niece. She calmly informed me that her father, my brother, was about to be wheeled into surgery for an emergency pacemaker implantation. In mid-sentence, she apologized and said the doctor had something to tell her. “I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
She did. From what she had learned, a neighbor had taken my brother to a hospital in Huntsville, Texas because he was feeling very, very bad. The Huntsville hospital immediately transferred him to a hospital in Conroe, thirty miles south. The doctors said he needed emergency surgery for a pacemaker. And so it went. My niece said the doctors told her it would be about an hour.
After finishing our early dinner, my wife and I drove the forty minutes home. That forty minutes was a long time. We’d spent most of the day after lunch on an aimless road trip, driving to Malvern to visit a furniture store, then west toward Arkadelphia, then drifting back toward Hot Springs. Our day was as much decompression as anything. We both had been involved in planning for and executing an auction for the UU church; last night the event was held and I was responsible for entering data about each winning bid. Not a terribly stressful role, but more taxing than I might have thought. Anyway, the auction was a success. It brought in well over fourteen thousand dollars. And our donations to the auction (a smoked pork loin and a tamale-making party (tamalada) from the both of us) did quite well. Three couples spent $230 each for the tamalada; another couple spent $90 for my smoked pork loin. We’d better be really, really good at what we do. But I digress. We headed home, expecting a phone call.
It didn’t take much longer than an hour to get word (maybe less). The prognosis, they said, was good. He was, by the time I spoke to my niece on the phone, barely awake and doing well. The surgery was successful; it accomplished its intended aim.
I’m available to drive to my brother’s home in Texas to stay with him for a while if he needs it. My many obligations suddenly seem like easy promises to break. In an instant, my obligations to everyone but my wife take second place to my remaining family. Even the auction can wait. I’m expected to finish up part of it, reconciling payments with bids, tomorrow. If all’s well, I will. But if not, I’m not irreplaceable in that role. I know that.