It took a Heart Transplant to Hear the Words Every Child Wants to Hear

My father is a man that says very little, but his thoughts are well known. When I was in high school I was arrested for underage drinking. My dad picked me up at the police station in his pajama top, hair askew, wearing a pair of jeans, and a Members Only tan jacket. I took one look at him and turned to the officer next to me and asked to stay at the police station. There was no denying it, my father was furious and embarrassed. I was grounded the entire summer.

A few years later when I was leaving for college my father looked at me on the front porch, as my mother was packing the last of my things in our grey Camry station wagon, and said, “Alyson I don’t want to hear three things while you are at college 1) You are pregnant 2) You are leaving college 3) You are getting married. Understand?” I nodded in complete disbelief. He gave me a hug and said goodbye. That was it.

He has used this same brusque communication with me for everything in my life. My wedding day he turned to me in the back of the church and said, “You ready?” and then walked me down the aisle. Nothing else, no touching moment of I love you or words of wisdom. The day I graduated from college he informed me that my car insurance would need to be switched to my own name.

My father has always been short with words, but loud in looks. When I was a sophomore in college he needed an emergency quintuple bypass. He called me at school and simply said, “You should come home.” So it was no surprise that on May 23rd of 2012 the same man called me at 9 pm on a Saturday night and told me in a very even keeled voice that the hospital had found a heart for him. He had been on the transplant list for approximately 8 weeks and his health had quickly deteriorated. He could barely talk and was near death. It is a conversation that like all the others, I have never forgotten.

“Aly it is Dad” (like hello I have no idea who it is!)

“Oh hi Dad.” (I knew something was up)

“They found a heart and I am being prepped right now. Wait, the nurse needs me – let me call you back.”

He hung up. I sat down on the green suede love seat at our cottage and stared at the clock, fighting back the tears. I was very aware that this was the moment that was the difference between life or death. My dad has had 10 heart attacks and countless surgeries. I have mentally packed for a funeral more times that I can count. There is always a black dress, or two, hanging in my closet. If I am at a store and one is on sale I buy it, because well you never know. I live in a state of hyper alert.

The phone rang again and I picked it up.

“Sorry Aly, so I was saying that a heart has been located and I am going into surgery tonight at midnight. I should be completed by 6 am unless there are complications.”

“Ok.” (I gripped the phone and was very aware of each breath. I had to keep it together.)

“Please pray for the family of the donor, she was only 28 years old and died in an accident.” (Even in his state his thoughts were with those that lost their loved one.)

“Of course.”

Wait…I will call you back they need me.”

“Dad, I am gonna let you go. Sounds like you have more important things to deal with.”

“Ok, I will talk to you.”

“I love you, Dad.”

He choked up ever so slightly and said, “I love you too.”

This was the first time in my life I can remember my father telling me he loved me. I was 36 years old, had graduated college, gotten married, and had two children but had never heard those words before.

Today I thank the family that so unselfishly donated their loved ones heart so that my father could finally say I love you to me. I may never know your name, or have an opportunity to thank you in person, but please know that every moment you have given our family with your donation has been a blessing.

Happy Father’s Day to my Father, Jim Rennick, and thank you to the family that cared enough to think of others in a time of darkness.