F I C T I O N
The sound came from within my aching chest. It was my new heart, beating regularly for a change. The surgery had gone well, even though I was still flat on my back and had a very hard time moving. Just reaching for the intravenous pain med button still made my chest hurt like hell. With heart surgery, the transplant part is fairly routine. It's recovering from having your chest split open like a clamshell that's difficult.
I'd had heart problems for a while and over the years I had to cut many of the physical activities I enjoyed doing - jogging, skiing, softball. I couldn't even meet the guys for a drink anymore. I was just too tired and fragile and angry about it all. And too young, too.
My wife Beth and little daughter Mara were here next to my bedside now. I hadn't seen them for months, ever since the last time I lost it and lashed out at Beth with my fist. I still remember her bruised face and how she glared at me angrily before she and Mara stormed out of the house.
The demons inside nagged at me constantly, shredding my patience and everyone else's. These demons, however, created an advantage for me as a stock broker. It was their work that encouraged my "type-A" personality and allowed me to make financial killings regularly. My substantial earnings made life comfortable for me as well as my family. In a manner of speaking.
The problem was I spent so much time making money that Beth and Mara had gradually become unimportant to me in the scheme of things. When I wasn't away on business, I felt trapped and suffocated by their constant housebound "needs."
"Can you put up the pictures that you said you'd do?"
"Can you come to parents' night at the school, Daddy?"
The doctors had told me things were getting worse with my heart and that a transplant would be needed. At first I resisted. They weren't going mess with my insides like that! But as I got weaker, I got angrier at my fate. My frustrations with everyone were present all the time. I hated people who didn't understand. I hated people who did understand. I wanted to be healthy and strong like I used to be! I had no time for anyone who felt sorry for me and pretended that nothing at all had changed. It wasn't fair, any of it.
Now Beth and Mara were here. Beth looked down at me, although her eyes didn't meet mine.
"We won't stay long. Just wanted to see how you were doing."
"Hi Daddy," Mara said. "Do you have another heart?"
"Hi, Mara. Yeah, I guess so."
"Does it hurt?"
"It's getting better."
"Mommy always tells me to listen to my heart. It tells me to be good."
"Yeah, Honey, maybe I'll be better now."
"And maybe your new heart will tell you to not be so mad and keep hurting Mommy?"
"Maybe, Honey" He paused a second, looking up at the ceiling.
Mara held his big hand in her little one. "I think so because you have a new heart. I know it's a better one than that old one."
Beth stepped up. "I... I think we'd better go."
"Don't leave," I felt myself pleading. "Don't go... just yet."
My voice was different. Higher. Maybe because of the surgery, but I wasn't really afraid of their leaving. Everything aside from the pain and my fatigue now felt calmer, more in place than it had ever been. Somehow, because they were there, my wife and daughter, because there was just a bit of something that brought them back (maybe forgiveness?) I felt happier than I had been in a very long time.
"Please stay, Beth. I want us to be together. I want us to rebuild our love. I'm through... with the job, and it's probably through with me, too. I... I want to just go home."
"But how can I know that you're not going to keep up with the anger and the abuse? What proof do I have? I can't even ask you to promise that."
"I have a new heart. Maybe a better heart..."
"Promise you'll listen to it, Daddy?
"Yes, yes, I promise."
"He promised, Mommy."
It's been two years now, and I have my family back. I changed and that change was a good one. I owe a lot of that to my new heart, our family's new-found love, and my darling daughter's advice.
I listen to my heart regularly.