My Daddy’s Blood
In ancient Egypt, according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, when one died, their heart was removed from their body and measured on a scale as a means to reveal the weight of their worth, for the afterlife, as judged by God.
A week before Thanksgiving 2020, for the second time in his life, my father's stomach was cut open and heart taken out of his body for at least eight consecutive hours and placed on ice while surgeons operated on seven blocked arteries until the arteries could deliver fresh blood to the heart.
I remember wondering what my father dreamed of while he lay on the surgical cot unconscious, while his heart was dissected. I’ll never admit it to anybody, but I’d place big money on it that he came to God and met him in the flesh.
His heart developed problems in his early twenties after he was diagnosed with cancer and treated successfully by a process I don’t really understand called radiation. It’s this radiation that saved him from dying of cancer and this radiation too that forever fucked his heart. If you ask him what he thinks of this, he’ll chuckle and say, “Well.” If he lives another twenty years, it’s more’n likely he’ll have to have open heart surgery again, for a third time, in his mid-eighties.
He's awful damn tough, it doesn't take knowing him too long before realizing it. My oldest brother--not technically his biological son but you'd never know it--always says Dad should have been born a sheriff in the Old West, because the outlaws would have ravaged every town except Dan's town, because even the sickest of criminals would have known, that nobody fucks with Dan.
He walked on at the University of Georgia to play running back, and day-in-and-day-out out ran scout team offense against the number one ranked defense in the country. This is back in 1977, back when slamming a ball carrier to the ground by grabbing his facemask or back of the shoulder-pads or close lining him, one defender high and one at the knees, was not only permitted but encouraged and considered the stuff of skill and talent and regulation.
Each play, after being shit-tackled by future NFL All-Pro defenders, my dad helped himself up, trotted back to the huddle while the defense ran their mouth and high-fived, then he walked up to his position at the line of scrimmage behind the QB who’d take the snap and give the ball off to my father, my father cutting and plowing through the no-god-given-hole against the defensive-line and threw a forearm out against them and the blitzing linebackers, bouncing and jabbing and breaking off tacklers into the secondary, until his forearm bled and fractured and he hollered out a Cherokee war-cry through his mouthpiece being taken down to the earth with brutal force while the whistle blew, going through this sweat and these steps upon the field for hours upon eternal hours every day of the week, and with the ball in his grip his heart beat like itself were a psalm of God.
He taught me how to be tough without having to give me a corny movie-type line on the essence of grit and salt and heart. Otherwise, you could consider him every character Clint Eastwood ever played in a movie. All one need do is watch how my father carries out his life to receive the finest education on how to be Good in this world. He does not complain, under any circumstance, he comes in heavy with the ball in his hands. If the world is tough, one must be even tougher. He showed me this. He never had to speak of his own heart, you can hear it pounding just from being in his presence.
When his heart was removed from his body and placed on ice, a week before Thanksgiving in 2020, for his second time, I wonder what God thought upon seeing such a thing, if it made him smile or weep sentimentally, or if it surprised even him that he had created such a good’n’tough son of a bitch.