"Wake Up, Dad!"
Updated: Apr 8
My father was mowing the lawn, and it was during his last pass that they got him; a large hive of ground hornets interrupting his plans. Receiving multiple stings from the little bastards, he frantically hopped off the riding mower and ran to the front porch. He quickly became dizzy, falling to the floor in front of my mother, my sister, and myself. Dad was barely responsive.
My mother screamed for me to dial 911, which I did, and as I waited for the dispatcher to answer, I watched as she and my sister tried to keep him conscious, slapping his face and yelling his name.
“911, this is a recorded line, what is your emergency?”
I answered each of the questions flying at me through the cordless house phone, and I very soon realized the seriousness of the situation,
“How old is your dad? Is he conscious? Is he breathing?”
One by one, I relayed my answers, and waited as the dispatcher repeated the situation to the people on her end, using a bunch of technical terms I knew nothing about. I tried desperately to tune out my sister's shouting in the background, “Dad! Wake up! Stay awake!”
One lone tear rolled down my cheek as I nervously asked the 911 operator, “Is my dad going to die?”
“Help is on the way,” she replied softly, “you just keep being brave, okay Chad?”
How’d she know my name? Maybe I told her? I don’t remember, but it didn’t matter at this point. All that mattered was my father lying on the floor.
“How much longer until help gets here?” I asked. “What is taking so long?”
“Don’t worry, Chad. Help is on the way. Can you tell me if anything has changed with your dad in the last few seconds?”
“No changes,” I replied.
“Okay, good. Tell me about you - do you play sports?”
Was she hitting on me?
It felt like a weird time to get to know one another, but my hormones and adrenaline went with it.
“I play baseball,” I said, also throwing in “....for the varsity team.” just to acknowledge the probable age difference between us. Certainly nothing we couldn’t work through together. People would just have to accept it.
“Oh, I love baseball,“ she returned.
Her voice was so calm and collected. It slowed my pulse back to a reasonable tempo. Her matter-of-fact statements made me feel like this call was some sort of speed dating hotline. It was all very confusing, but liberating too. Could this really be happening? The day my dad was potentially going to die in front of me, could also be the same day I meet the woman of my dreams? She wanted to get to know me. I mean, hell, she liked baseball!
“Dad! Wake up!” my older sister’s yelling in the background intensified; stupid sister was making it difficult for me to hear the gentle breathing of my 911 angel.
“Robin, shut up!” I roared.
Robin slowly raised her head, glaring at me through those signature poofy bangs.
I looked away, lowering my face in shame and silently thought, "oh right…..Dad,"
The sound of the approaching sirens magnified. Before I knew it, I could see the flashing lights cresting the hillside.
“I can hear the sirens coming, Chad.” the dispatcher stated.
Internally, I knew this could only mean one thing: we would have to hang up soon. I still had unfinished business; things I needed to say to her. She needed to know that even though this could potentially turn out to be one of the saddest days of my pubescent life, it could also become one of the happiest too: the day we first met.
It became difficult for me to deny emergency services’ arrival to our house, as their howling sirens made it almost impossible to hear her next question.
“Is the ambulance in your driveway, Chad?” she asked.
“Uh, yes, they’re here now," I reluctantly reported.
“Okay, I am going to let you go now,“ she started, “I hope your dad is…”
“Wait! No. Not yet,” I interrupted, “I have something I NEED to tell you.”
“Yes, Chad?” she cutely said in a way that told me she was smiling; maybe even playing with her hair while she waited.
There was no better time than now….
“I love you,” I said while also internally acknowledging that maybe I was now the one in a state of shock.
“Hmmmm.....well…..I wish you and your family the best of luck.”
And with a click, she was gone: terminated our call; pulled the plug to our connection. She went back to only life she knew. She returned to her magnificent switchboard. She had more people to save; more lives to change. I began to hum "Kiss From A Rose."
Somewhere in the great ethos; somewhere in the archives, there exists a recording of a 911 phone call that occurred in the afternoon of August 15th, 1992. During that call, a high school boy boldly professed his love to the dispatcher of his dreams. It is a recording that has probably been used to train and educate new dispatchers on proper procedures and protocol. More likely, it's probably been played again and again strictly for amusement and inner-office entertainment purposes.
Either way, I wish it didn’t exist.
As far as my dad, he’s fine. He’s just allergic to bees.
Written by Chad Zingales on 4/8/23 while roasting a Cornish game hen on a homemade spit in his backyard