It's every woman's fear that PEOPLE magazine will someday have a "Worst Daughter" list.
If it's a "Worst Dressed, Worst Daughter" list, I have no doubt I'll make the cover.
Slipping his partial out of his mouth, Dad places it firmly in my hand.
"Don't lose it," he orders, like I'm going to melt it down and sell the gold.
The doctor told me to have Dad at the hospital at 6 a.m. sharp. The way he said it, I assumed the entire surgical staff would be scrubbed, gloved and waiting in the parking garage.
I'd pull up to the curb, they'd throw Dad on the gurney, cup the mask over his face and before the elevator door dinged open, he'd be in recovery.
Meanwhile 12 hours later Dad's still flirting with the nurses, and I've been sitting in the waiting room so long, housekeeping has disinfected me twice.
Looking over her Enquirer magazine, the woman sitting across from me stares at me.
"Is that coffee?" she finally asks.
"There's a Starbucks two streets over," I say, pointing toward the star in the east.
When the woman continues to stare at me, I casually check my zipper.
It's been my experience that the only thing worse than forgetting to zip is forgetting to wear underwear when you forget to zip.
"Your father is under the knife," she gasps, slapping her hand to her heart, "and you go for coffee?"
I can see how this might look bad.
"It's routine back surgery," I assure her with a shrug. "Doc says he's done dozens of them."
"Oh, honey," the woman tuts, shaking her head ominously, "there's no such thing as routine surgery."
I don't normally take medical advice from a woman who's reading an article about a monkey with Marilyn Monroe's body, but suddenly I get a lump in my throat.
"When I had surgery, my daughters never left my side!" she says, punctuating the air with her finger. "If I wanted ice ... I got ice!"
Squinting, she studies her fingernails. Then, reaching into her purse, she pulls out a file.
"Six weeks, I was sipping through a straw," she sighs as she sands away.
"Heart trouble?" I ask gently.
"Face lift," she says, blowing the dust off.
"Your daughters never left your side for six weeks?" I ask incredulously. "Didn't they have, like ... jobs?"
I was going to say "lives," but I feel that ground's been covered.
"Honey," the woman says, leaning toward me, "parents are like kidneys you only get two."
"Wow," Dad giggles when they finally roll him into his hospital room at 8 p.m., "you look like you're ready for Halloween!"
Dad's still on his morphine drip, so needless to say he's much happier than I am.
"Here," I say, firmly planting the cup in his hand.
"What is it?" Dad asks, staring down.
"What do I do with it?" he asks.
"I have no idea," I say. "But, Daddy, I just want you to know, there's more where that came from." (Copyright 1999 P.S. Wall. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.)