“You got how much snow?” I asked.
“About four inches,” my father said. My flight had left South Carolina about 9:00 AM Friday morning; and the snow had begun to fall about 4:00 PM. I called home Saturday morning like I usually do, and my father had told me about the unusual snowfall.
In just a few hours I was scheduled to speak to the members of the Broken Hearts of the Big Bend, and I planned to speak about my first heart operation. And now my dad is telling me about snow on the ground back home.
Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra might say. I was getting ready to talk about how my parents drove from South Carolina to Baltimore, fought through the worst snowstorm in recent memory (Baltimore’s 24 hour snowfall total that night has been topped twice since then) to get me to Johns Hopkins Hospital for my first heart surgery. And my father is talking about snow on the ground. If there was ever a sign that I needed to say what I had planned, this was it.
My dad is a retired textile chemist who has worked in cotton mills and fabric manufacturers all his life. He occasionally calls himself a linthead, an old term left over from the days when cotton mills peppered the South Carolina landscape. My mom also worked in textiles, usually on the retail end. But on one night in early 1967 these two Southerners went above and beyond the call and in the process became Heart Parents.
I won’t tell the story again; I posted the text of my presentation and also a video of my speech earlier. My audience was made up of Heart Parents, most of them young, just like my dad and mom were. They have the advantage of having the internet, overwhelming amounts of information, support groups, and instant communication. My parents were on their own and knew no one else who had ever been through anything like this.
You need a special kind of strength to dig your heels in and fight against Heart Defects. Two lintheads from the cotton mills found theirs on the road to Baltimore… and that same strength is in you.