"I went to the doctor yesterday," the familiar voice is saying to me. He sounds tired, too serious, so unlike himself. "I got up and I remembered I promised you that I would go. I had to keep my promise to my girl." I smile a smile he cannot see. His promises to me are so important, he wants to keep them. I am that important.
"Thank you," I say. "I am so glad, Daddy." I am twenty-three and will forever refer to my father as "Daddy". I will also continue to nag him and look after him until the day one of us leaves the planet. It is the nature of our relationship. On a recent visit, I noticed he wasn't eating much at all. He insisted it was a stomach virus, but something about the situation wouldn't leave me alone. He dropped eighteen pounds without even trying, and found it difficult to eat a normal meal. It terrified me. I made him promise that if he still felt sick when he went to Connecticut to see my grandmother for Christmas, he would see a doctor.
Later that evening, he called me again. His doctor called that evening with the results of his blood tests and asked how soon my father could get to the emergency room. Fifteen minutes later, my father had an IV in his arm with several types of antibiotics dripping into his veins. The stomach virus he thought he had was a serious infection in his blood, which could have killed him. The doctors were especially concerned because he has a defect in one of the valves in his heart, which could have caused the infection to spread there as well. Thankfully, it didn't get that far.
My father spent over a week in the hospital being pumped full of antibiotics, going through test after test to assess his health. This would be concern enough for anyone, except there was one additional problem: my father does not have health insurance. I can't remember the last time he did. He never sees a doctor, gets blood work done, gets a check-up. He's been turned down by health care companies for his heart defect (before pre-existing conditions were eliminated), and his job in catering does not provide health care. I think my father believed he could wait until he was old enough for Medicare before he needed health insurance, but he is two years away. For most people in this country, being without health insurance does not equal an eight plus day stay in the hospital, with all necessary tests and medications provided. For most people, no health insurance at some point puts you out on your ass, blood infection or no blood infection. Yet my father is not most people: while he barely has any money, my grandmother does. Our last name wouldn't mean a thing in Fort Lauderdale, where my father lives, but it carried some weight in Greenwich Hospital.
In America, your last name and who your parents are can hold weight, if you're lucky. It can say all the things you could never say out loud, like, "We're good for it; run all the tests you need." Money and the promise of money can turn a real dilemma into a first-world problem, and in this case, I'm pretty damn glad.