Brad is going to be so pissed if he wakes up and learns that we fucked up his Invisalign,” my brother’s fiancée whispered from the other side of his hospital bed. If it weren’t for his labored breathing, I’d have said he looked good, like one of my girlfriends after elective cosmetic surgery. His skin was taut and dewy, his body seemingly strong. All that was left was for him to wake up.
The nightmare began a little more than a week ago when my father casually mentioned in a text message that my brother, Brad, was in the ER receiving treatment for some kind of infectious disease. “So how is everything else?” he added with predictable nonchalance. Everything else was fine but what the fuck was he talking about? I picked up my phone and called him immediately.
My family had experienced so many years of stability that we were confident in the notion that nothing *that* bad could happen.
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There’s this unspoken assumption when you’re the child of a doctor that nothing is ever wrong with you—or at least nothing horrendous enough to warrant your father leaving work. And for the previous 38 years of my life (and 45 of Brad’s), my dad was right. Sure, there had been appendicitis, tonsillitis, car accidents, premature births, broken bones, and botched Botox, but for the most part we were a healthy family with good genes and disciplined fitness regimens.
The closest we’d come to tragedy was three months earlier. My father, who’d fallen off his bike around Christmas, discovered residual damage this spring and underwent surgery. Losing him would have been life-shattering—almost as catastrophic as losing my poodle, Mr. Teets, one year earlier. But the death of a parent is still one of those inevitable events that comes with admittance to the theme park of life, something we all accept as being part of the journey.
My dad didn’t die, though. He came back stronger. Within a month of his surgery, he was out of rehab, back to his workaholic…