prayers work (proof)
04.26.03 // 2:25 p.m.

Me and Papá Chepe in June at my graduation.

I hate to think of my grandpa, Papá Chepe, as anything but invincible. He's the type of man stereotypes of Mexican men are made of. He worked the land in the fields of California and Texas during WW II as part of the Bracero Program and then in Southern California as a gardener. He married, had 7 kids, adopted another, and then the family just grew exponentially. I figure Papá Chepe has lived 82 years and has accomplished so much that he must have at least another 82 in him, right?

This past week, I've had to see him in a different light. Sunday night, he had a heart attack yet didn't tell anyone until Monday morning. They took him to his doctors in San Diego and he was admitted to the hospital. I was worried, just a little, but not too much. Tuesday, I spoke to him and he told me he'd be out by Thursday, but they were just waiting for the results of some tests.

Wednesday, I got another call from my father, with more news I wasn't prepared for.

On my way home from work, I checked my messages. The first, time I could barely hear, and just heard the sounds of my Dad saying "news." It didn't sound good, so I put off checking it again for a few more minutes. I knew it couldn't be that bad because my father would never leave a message with that type of news.

When I called back, I heard the message: "Cindy, I'm calling just to give you the news. Your Papá Chepe has three clogged arteries and he's going to need to have open heart surgery tomorrow. Call me back when you -- oh, I got another call, I'll call you back."

And that was it. I was stunned, unsure of what to think, so my mind just skipped to the worst. A few minutes later, I talked to my brother Danny who told me of the plans to head down to the hospital. My mom was already there and we'd be leaving at 7 the next morning to meet her. He was a little worried too.

For a second, I doubted whether or not I should join them in SD. I had a busy day at work the next day, and depending on how things went I might have to miss Friday too. My priorities quickly realigned themselves with family coming first, as it always should. I needed to be with them. I thought of the times in the last five years or so -- Grandma's death in January 2000, Yo's suicide attempt last year, and a few others -- when something had happened in my immediate and extended family and I was away at school. I know my school isn't far from home, but I knew I don't want to be absent for even a minute if something happened.

So, I made 10 calls and cancelled meetings, postponed counseling sessions and let my Angel and Chispa, assistant director and best friend, know I wouldn't be in for the rest of the week. I called Claudia, my boss (sort of) and filled her in on the news.

Then, I cried for a while.

I slept for most of the way to SD as my dad drove. We caravanned along with my Tía Marta and my cousins. When we arrived at the hospital, we troped in, about 9 of us at the same time. When I walked to into room 503b I saw something I didn't expect to ever see, my Papá Chepe shedding some tears.

He was overcome with emotion as he saw his grandkids and daughters and son-in-law come in. We talked to him for a few minutes, and then joined the rest of the family in the visitors area. We talked about Danny's trip to Guadalajara, my Tía Luisa's puppy Xena, and other random things to keep our mind off shtuff.

And we waited and waited. He needs to be transferred to another hospital with the best cardilogists? Okay. We'll wait until there's room there. In the mean time, family came, and more family. All of my mom's siblings came through with their spouses, a kid or alone. Well, except for the sister in México. At one point there were 18 family members in the hospital.

Around 3:30 they finally moved him to the other hospital and the bunch shifted locations. I took Papá Chepe's car to my aunt's house in SD and then headed with the rest of the siblings to my cousin, Liz's house where we waited to leave to her 8 year old daughter's softball game. After being indoors all day, I was eager to get out, even if to watch a boring softball game.

We spent the night in SD thinking that maybe the surgery wasn't going to be necessary after all. Our thoughts were confirmed later Friday when we found out he'd be given medication. Papá Chepe will be released today.

I'm convinced prayers do work. Thanks.

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