Growing up in Four Oaks, North Carolina into a family who owned the best barbeque restaurant in the county, my father has always had a love for Southern food. Ever since I can remember, fried chicken, cole slaw, butter-loaded mashed potatoes, gravies, and fried everything flooded our dinner table. It was a wonderful lifestyle. It was a deadly lifestyle.
On Oct 7, 2007 my 62-year-old father was engaging in a game of tennis at our local tennis club. My dad was in excellent shape, and one of the best tennis players at our club. There were many onlookers of the match from the large deck of our clubhouse, where people usually sit and have a drink after tennis. My father went to return a ball and simultaneously collapsed. He didn’t move. He was dead. Immediately one of his tennis partners and an onlooker began CPR. Several cell phones instantly dialed 911. My father had gone into cardiac arrest on the tennis court, and his heart was not beating.
Within four minutes an ambulance arrived and brought a difibulator out to the tennis court and revived him on the court. My mother was on a plane returning to Raleigh at the time, and I was in Italy. My father’s best friend rode in the back of the ambulance with him to the hospital, answering every question about his prior history.
My father arrived at the hospital and became more responsive, but had extensive heart damage. When a nurse told him that he would not be able to play tennis for at least 6 weeks, my stubborn father said, “What, no. I’ll be back sooner than that!”
The nurse replied, “No. Today you were given a second chance. A second chance to live and see your family. It doesn’t matter if it takes 6 weeks or 6 years to play tennis again, because you were given another chance.”
My father had a quadruple bypass surgery and had an aortic cow valve put in his heart. His room was filled with card, build-a-bears, and friends for two weeks while he was in the hospital. He had an amazing recovery and is now back to playing tennis. My dad knows that he got a second chance to live, and our dinner table looks a little different these days. Less fried, less butter, less grease. The Southern food traditions no longer encompass our family dinners, but they are still remembered in our hearts along with my father’s second chance.
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