Somehow they figured out that he was talking about baseball, but what about it? He gestured to Rick's phone, and after some discussion they realized he wanted them to check the Rangers' scores. "I'm not sure you really want to know," Rick warned. "It was pretty bad."
He nodded that he did indeed want to know, so Rick broke the news. The Rangers had lost three straight games to the Yankees.
When Rick recounted the story back in the crowded waiting room, we were all encouraged. If Dad was well enough to wonder about baseball, that had to be a good sign.
Amy and I went in next, and the smile that lit Dad's eyes at the sight of us warmed my heart. He reached for my hand and I clutched it for the duration of my visit. When Amy left the room, I stood quietly and watched his eyelids getting heavy.
"Dad," I said, "I'm going to pray some scriptures over you now, but you don't really have to listen. You just close your eyes and rest."
He nodded, eyes closed.
I prayed all of Psalm 139 over him, with two minor modifications. "If Dad goes up to the heavens, you are there. If he goes into the operating room, you are there.... When Dad awakes from surgery, you will still be with him."
At that second tweak, Dad squeezed my hand firmly. He hadn't been asleep after all. We just grinned at each other then. "I love you so much, Dad. I'm thankful to be here holding your hand." He nodded.
His ICU nurse, Sarah, came in then. Very short and jolly, she appeared to be Indian. She rubbed Dad's bald head and looked in his eyes. "You are such a sweet baba," she said. "You are going to be just fine. You know that, right?"
"He's always smiling, this one. He is always a sweet baba. Yes, you will be fine. You will be back with me very soon."
My eyes filled with tears. "We appreciate your kindness," I said.
Sarah's predictions were correct. Dad came through the surgery with flying colors. His blood pressure was good, his bowel tissue was healthy, and they were able to reconnect the cut sections. The surgeon told us afterward that he has lost very little of his small intestine, and his nutrient absorption will not be affected. Everything should work just as it did before.
When he asked for questions, Mom informed him that Dad has been eating bacon three times a week. "Shouldn't he stop that?" she asked.
He laughed. "If your husband makes it through all this and gets back home, I think bacon will be the least of his worries. Yes, he should be up to eating bacon again soon."
"Let him eat his bacon, Mom," several of us said.
When Mom and I went to his room back in ICU, we were surprised to find him wide awake. His breathing tube had been removed, and he was anxious to talk after two days of enforced silence.
First he described two dreams. During his first surgery on Tuesday, he dreamed that I hit a grand slam for the Rangers. During today's surgery, he dreamed that Rick's son Mitchell was pitching for the Yankees.
After that, he gave Mom instructions about several of his weekly mowing customers. "Tell them I won't be able to mow for the rest of the year," he said. I smiled at the implication that he'll be back out there mowing next spring. I have no doubt that he will.
Next he told us how he felt when he was wheeled down the hall for his surgery. "I got very anxious," he said. "My whole body got stiff, and I didn't want to go into surgery."
I imagined the horror of feeling that anxious and not even being able to communicate. But I was wrong. Dad was perfectly able to communicate with the only One who could help him.
"I prayed, 'Lord, help me. I don't want to go into surgery like this. Help me be quiet and have peace.' Immediately, I became perfectly calm. I wasn't afraid at all."
My eyes grew wet. Dad had found a treasure in the darkness! "Praise the Lord!" I said.
When Rick, Mindy, and I went in to say goodbye this afternoon, Rick happily informed Dad that the Rangers were leading the Yankees by four runs in the ninth inning. "But the bad news is the Yankees are now up to bat."
"It's okay," I said. "With Mitchell pitching, we have nothing to worry about."
It was so good to see Dad laugh.