July 17, 2023

I was lying in bed, half asleep when I heard that annoying ring.  I reached over on the dresser and located the phone on my third try.  It was 7:23 am, Saturday, June 10th and it was mom. I smiled and said, “Hey You!”, she cautiously replied “Hey Baby, it’s mom. Your dad isn’t feeling well. He didn’t go to dialysis yesterday because he was just too tired. So I let him rest.  But this morning, he didn’t want to get out of bed.  And I have never seen him look so beat.  I’m worried. Mike, can you please come home?”  Of course, I could. I woke up and started to pack, but a few minutes later, I got “The Call”.  The paramedics were on their way to transport Dad, 50 miles down to a hospital in Austin. 

At 86, there is no such thing as minor surgery, especially when anesthesia or a heart procedure is involved. He arrived at 9:22 am and was whisked through the ER patient reception area. After a brief conversation with an ER doctor, he was being prepped for emergency surgery at 11:45 am. In addition to an internal infection, the Cardiologist informed us that the battery in his defibrillator had been dead for two years.  By then, the entire Francis clan had arrived and we prayed, remained optimistic and waited.  At 9:07 pm, the surgery was complete, but they needed more time to stabilize him in ICU. So me and mom, stayed and waited, again.   By now, she had been awake for more than 18 hours and drifted off to sleep at 12:51 am.  Her head resting comfortably on my chest.  I wrapped my arms around her and periodically kissed her forehead.  I reflected on some of the life experiences I captured in 59 Prime and tried to lean on them.

My parental allegiance was firmly cemented @ 3:30 am, that Sunday morning when we were finally allowed to enter dad’s ICU room.  The gravity of the situation immediately began to sink in as I gently ushered mom into the room.  Even through our sleep deprived eyes, there were obvious signs that the medical team and nurses had been busy working to save dad’s life. A few bloody towels on the floor along with a couple of discarded sterile pads and one nurse hurriedly trying to tiding up the room.  She looked up and said, ”I’m so sorry for the mess.  It’s late, and we knew you had been waiting out there a long time. As soon as he was stable enough, we wanted to get you in here. We’ll get everything cleaned up.  He’s been through a lot, he’s doing ok, he’s a trooper.  My name is Chioma, I’ll be your dad’s nurse tonight.”

We quickly introduced ourselves and headed straight to dad’s hospital bed. There he was.  Understandably disoriented, with several vitals either above or below the normal range, seven IVs flickering a kaleidoscopes of neon colors onto the ceiling and walls, multiple medical devices beeping and pulsating, digital graphs and charts fluctuating sporadically, electromagnetic patches tethered strategically across his chest, legs, arms and torso and his face covered with an oxygen mask.  He looked eerily similar to one of the Alien’s reluctant hosts.  I paused, looked over at mom who was on the other side of the bed and said “mom, he’s gonna be alright”.

I did not, could not, would not, sit down until I was absolutely certain that dad knew I/we were there. Holding his hand and pulling the sheet and then the blanket up to cover his chest.  I greeted him, the way I always do whenever I come home “Hey chief!”.  But this time followed by further clarification, just in case the anesthesia still clouded his memory, “It’s me, Michael”. “You’re at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin.  Are you cold?  They had to remove your gallbladder.  It was infected.  Mom and I are here in the room with you. You’re going to be ok.” He looked at me and slowly nodded. “Just try to relax and get some rest, I’m going be right here in that chair, ok”. He looked at me and slowly nodded. I leaned in a bit closer, looked into his eyes, fighting back tears and told him “I love you dad”, it took about two seconds then I heard him whisper “I love you too, son”.  Then I gently kissed his forehead.

And that is how we have ended every single one of my 33 departures, thus far. My love for him and addiction to those five words are an intoxicating genetic elixir that fully revealed itself the moment, I got “The Call”.

About the Author Michael K. Francis

Michael is a C-Suite Business and Human Resources Executive with more than 30 years of professional experience in the public sector with four Fortune 500 companies, and as a Management Consultant. In 2020, he founded BEAM Executive Advisors, LLC to provide consultative services to clients based on collaborative relationships, trust, and integrity.

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  1. Michael, you took me to the room at that moment you stood beside his bed. Take care of our dad. Much love! Stuff

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