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C is for Cars, Check-Ups and One Capricious Cliche

By Keri Kelly

“Your dad needs to undergo another heart surgery,” my mom said. She was calling me from a hospital emergency room for the third time in six months.

I let out the breath I’d been holding since my dad was admitted to the hospital with difficulty breathing. Forget the dizziness, the heart palpitations or the breathlessness from mere walking he’d been suffering with for months. When he couldn’t push the lawnmower anymore, he’d finally decided it was time to get checked out.

“He’ll be okay,” my mom said as she repeated on numerous occasions that year.

The faulty heart valve was my father’s third major medical emergency in less than six months. On Christmas Eve, he had gall bladder surgery. His doctors told him that his gall bladder had been so infected, it’d seized to his colon. My dad thought his troubles were from persistent heartburn and a food allergy. He didn’t need a doctor. Before that, my dad’s trouble breathing was due to hay fever and asthma. The emergency room doctor’s diagnosis for this so-called allergy — congestive heart disease.

“Your dad is worried about his car. It’s due for an oil change,” my mom said before we hung up.

“You want me to take his car for an oil change?” I asked, perplexed why my father would be thinking about routine car maintenance when his life was on the line.

“That would be great,” my mom simply said.

This request for an oil change right before heart surgery wasn’t the first time my father had been obsessed with his car’s health. A month before this most recent visit to the emergency room, I had called my mother and asked my parents if they’d like to visit for the day, but they’d declined. My dad was at the car dealership — again. This time he was getting the tires rotated. Weekly visits to the car dealership to get the car serviced sometimes occurred more frequently than trips to the supermarket.

“Why do you get your car checked more than your body?” I asked my dad a few weeks after his heart valve surgery.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

“But maybe if you got your body serviced like you do your car, you might not have so many emergencies,” I gently said.

“Don’t forget the lawn,” he said.

“The lawn?”

“Yeah. I service the lawn at least once a week and twice a week in the summer.” He laughed at his joke while I just shook my head.

— Keri Kelly

Keri Kelly is an award-winning author, comedy writer and creative writing professor. Learn more and say hello at

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