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The heart of the matter

So my father has a fixed heart.

Sure, he'll be out of commission for a few weeks, won't be able to drive for a while and is shaved in places he never thought a razor would be near, but Pete's heart is fixed. And he's got the chest and leg scars to prove it.

Dad went into University's Hospitals new cardiac care center (which, by the way, has a large plaque thanking the Knox family of Thomson and Augusta for their generous support of the facility) with plans for an angioplasty last Thursday to clear a few blockages in his heart. It was soon obvious that a balloon wouldn't do the trick.

In the vernacular of heart doctors, my father had three blockages in his heart: 95 percent, 95 percent and 100 percent.

In layman's terms: Pete Smith was a walking time bomb, who happened to be defused just in time.

By Friday at 1 p.m., the surgery was over and Pops was on the road to recovery.

Of course, the trek wasn't without its hiccups. Sleep was intermittent. The pain was not. And sometimes repaired hearts don't want to beat quite right.

By Sunday night, Pete had settled in to a familiar routine: reruns of Bonanza, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show and whatever else came on TV Land.

There was one thing missing from the routine though: It comes in bottles with mountains on the labels and is best served cold.

The road to prohibition started several days ago, when Dad first met with his new cardiologist. The doctor asked if Pete had any vices. Just two, Dad said: books and beer. One would have to go, according to the doctor. So, in true Pete Smith style, Dad started looking for places to donate all his books.

That wasn't the one the doctor was talking about.

But the doctor couldn't help but smile on Thursday night when Dad asked if he could sneak out of the hospital for Thirsty Thursday with the Augusta GreenJackets. The sirens' song of $1 beers was just too strong, he said.

Meanwhile, it has been great to hear the kind words folks have passed along for the old man. At the Blind Willie festival last Saturday, Brenda Griffin was nearly in tears as we talked about the surgery. Doug Keir sent a plant. So did the pharmacy folks at McDuffie Regional Medical Center.

And that's just a short list of the phone calls, visits and mementos that have touched our family so deeply in the last week. Thanks to everyone who offered a kind word or prayer for my Dad.

Now that he's back at home, he's got several weeks of recovery ahead of him. He's falling back into his home routine and longing to get out in the yard and get his hands dirty.

And I'm sure he's hoping to toast his health soon.

Even if it'll have to be with a frost glass of milk.

Web posted on Thursday, May 14, 2009

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