Growing up, my father regularly inserted so-called “Life Lessons” into conversations. Some were specific to me: “never date a Yankees fan” was a mantra my Boston-loving self had in her head starting at age seven. Some were situational: “when you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before” was whispered as my younger brother and I snuck through a Ritz Carlton lobby to use the hotel’s bathroom on a family vacation. And some were just bizarre: “you can never have too many plastic storage containers” is a motto I’m only appreciating now as I struggle to find room for stuff I don’t need in my first apartment.
On Monday my mother sent me an eight-word text, punctuated with an Emoji heart. “Your father’s in the ER, will call later.” Three blinking dots appeared under her message, and a second text came through, letting me know it wasn’t *that* serious, that I shouldn’t worry, that I should tell my brother when I get a chance. My mom works in medicine and throughout all of our childhood illnesses and injuries, virtually nothing brought us to the ER (with the notable exceptions of my brother’s repeated head-meets-hard-surface encounters that resulted in enough stitches to make a quilt).
It was definitely serious.
There's a fourth Life Lesson, given to me in the depths of college finals around midnight—one I regularly forget, one that would’ve served me well as I paced around my tiny office imagining the worst: “Things are never as bad as they seem.”
My dad was recovering at home by evening, with permanent damage limited to a few scars, some un-bleachable bloodstains, and maybe a crooked nose.
Things were not as bad as they’d seemed.
I haven’t dated a Yankees fan, but I have Orioles and Mets lovers in my past. I still gawk at hotel lobbies where a room for one night costs more than my weekly paycheck. I always forget to buy Tupperware when it’s on sale, whether it’s for the kitchen or a dusty corner under my bed. And I still panic, with or without cause, whenever something goes wrong.
But maybe one day—if I’m lucky—I’ll pass a pile of plastic storage containers with a bright-red 50% OFF sticker and buy the entire stack.