I’m forced to be an adult, but will always need DAD

Evin Hall

This column wasn’t written by who you’d expect, but rather one 21-year-old version of him. I’m Evin Hall, Craig Hall’s oldest daughter.

As the oldest, I’ve always tried to be the adult — until that is, it was something I didn’t want to do. Then I’d play the “I’m still a kid card.” Even into my first few years of adulthood. Through it all, I’ve always had a dad who’d either step in and be the adult for me or push me to do it myself.

I’ve been a daddy’s girl my whole life, even through the fights. We didn’t get into that fight when I recently was faced with no other option than to be an adult. I’d like to believe Dad would say I truly grew up that weekend, but we’d have to agree to disagree.

During our nightly phone call a couple of weeks ago, Dad mentioned he was feeling some fluttering in his chest and was going to the doctor in the morning. He called after his appointment and announced the results of the electrocardiogram seemed a little off and he’d call again with the results of blood work. The call Dad received wasn’t those results, but a point-blank order: “You need to go to St. Mary’s emergency room now.”

Our family medical history offered an insight into what was happening, but I didn’t want to face the possibilities of what might result. My father was having a heart attack.

The doctors initially thought they could address the problem with a cardiac catheterization and some stents. Dad and I decided I didn’t need to come home yet. But I had a gut feeling the easy fix everyone hoped for wouldn’t be sufficient. After a sleepless night, I headed to work and anxiously awaited the phone call informing me they were prepping him for discharge and everything was OK.

I received a different kind of call from Dad. “Bug, you need to come home.” It was no longer the easy fix, but open heart surgery with a double bypass and aortic valve replacement. I’m somewhat familiar with surgery after undergoing three recent knee procedures. But nothing like that.

The next few hours were spent scrambling to get home to Dad and my little sister, who’s been sheltered from the darkness most of her life. While I thought we’d already discussed the hard stuff, the “what ifs” conversation proved that wrong very quickly. I signed the paperwork to serve as Dad’s medical power of attorney and agreed to take over everything if worst came to worst the next day.

Life changed in an instant. I no longer had the option to be a kid. My dad was rolled into an operating room where any tough decision to be made would be made through me. I thank God none of it happened. My sister will tell you I was a mess that day. She’s right. I honestly believe I held my breath for eight hours — until 5:30 p.m., when the surgeon finally called to tell me he was done and my father was headed to the intensive care unit. Dad was still intubated, but supposed to come off by midnight.

My memories of that day are mostly a blur, except the memory of walking into the ICU with my best friend thinking I’d see my dad sleeping peacefully. I should have known better. He was responsive through head nods. While I couldn’t make it through the extubation, my friend sat there with him and called me the minute it was done. Dad was a man of few words that night — something I’ve never before written and don’t expect to again. But between the drowsiness, the nods and faces he made, he proved one thing: He was still my dad.

Stubborn would be the first word I’d choose to describe Dad considering he was already trying to sleep without oxygen on day two. But strong is the second word.

He wrote a column when I graduated from high school in which he stated, “I don’t want my daughter to need me.” While our stubbornness reflects like a mirror — especially during the long advice-giving phone calls in which I inform him “I’m an adult” — I’ve never wanted more to look in his eyes and say, “But Dad, I’m just a kid.”

I’m not ready to not need him. No matter how much of an adult I think I am, I’m still just his little girl.

Now, as the stress of the last few weeks alleviates, I’m going to say it again. I’m an adult. But I’m still just a kid.

There was no advice that could have taught me to be the adult for this. I thank God every single day He pulled my dad through this ordeal as amazingly as He did. But my dad also had to fight for it.  He did it for me and my little sister, who looks up to him more than he believes.

We’ve never been prouder to call you Dad. And never more thankful to feel your unconditional love — hopefully, for a long, long time to come.

We love you Dad. More than any words can say.

Evin Hall is the 21-year-old daughter of Craig Hall, owner and publisher of the Business Times.