One thing that is cruel and harsh about life, you never get to say when it’s done. No matter how hard you try. Yesterday brought my world to a standstill as my grandfather literally danced with death. Well, knowing my grandfather it was more of a card game of Gin Rummy. For those who want the details, hit the jump. If not, back to production after this post.

The Day the Cards were Dealt

"We need you to decide upon a DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] Order..."

These are words you do not ever want to hear your nurse/doctor ask you. My mother and aunt had to go through that perilous ordeal yesterday. The cards have been shuffled, dealer, stone-faced, gracefully guided the cards to their respective owners’ hand. Pa, a smart-witted, classy gentleman who couldn’t resist wearing his purple corduroys suit to the occasion, and a dark robed hooded figure.  A small bow of respect came from the looming creature as it sat down. Pa returned with a little nod of his head, a smirk of confidence. This was not their first game and with a little bit of luck, it will not be their last.

As I left work early, it was a very questionable day. We didn’t know what to expect. My grandfather, having been fighting cancer and recently had a stomach surgery to remove the poison, had been struggling with Chemo treatments. After finally getting out of the hospital just days before, his health turned for the worse. Now fighting double pneumonia, he has to face the decision to wait it out or go under a very risky surgery. Rounds go by, cards are exchanged. Pa holding his own, but the hooded figure becomes selective of the cards he’s taking. Unsure if the figure has a better hand, Pa continues playing, drawing card after card to build a solid hand.

Only one surgeon, the original who operated on his stomach, would be willing to perform the surgery under the conditions he has. He is then transported to the proper hospital where immediate surgery will take place.

The Knocking Phase

"I need to let you know, this is the time where things can get problematic..."

The warning the surgeon gives as he meets us in his room and rushes the nurses to get him ready to go. It was the first time ever that I have heard of the surgeon waiting in the room and, furthermore, walking the patient down to the operating room. Several family and friends had stopped by for support. This was the longest stage of the process. When the surgeon is gone, our loved one with him/her, what is left to do but sit and ponder? The worst part of the matter is waiting without any word. It was a tedious situation where the operation was known to be delicate, his health known to be questionable, and matters causing the trouble within his body were still unknown. Exploratory Surgery. A dangerous term if ever there was one. Within the context of “we don’t know the problem” and “things can get problematic,” this is far from comforting. As it was with a two hour waiting period before we received any word of the proceedings.

Games are one things, playing for your life another. When you’re dealt the cards that you must use to save your life, you must play them well. Pa, hunched over the marble table of life, exchanged cards and acquired new ones, waiting to form a perfect run and set. With a King, Queen, Jack, and 10 of spades, 3 sets of 9, and two 8’s, all he needed was another 8 to get a Gin. The dreary hooded figure gave no indication of its intent, but merely searched the cards for a specific one, discarding every new card acquired. They both were searching for one last card. A silent race. 


With a knowing smile, Pa slyly says, “Gin.” He lays down his cards. The hooded figure, disgruntled, rises from the table, giving a small bow before leaving the table. As the hooded figure steps away, Pa snickers as he empties his sleeve of a few extra cards.

"We have a long dark forest ahead of us..."

After two very grueling hours, we finally hear the words we were hoping to hear. “It was a success.” The cause of his trouble? A hold in his intestine that allowed almost all the infection to vacate his system, leaving his vital organs uninfected, and healthy considering his current state. The damage was reduced, limited, and with a long road of recovery, he will still see me take the stage in 42nd Street at the Terrace Playhouse this October. Here’s to the best card player I know, cheating death, yet again.