The extra time started on Visiting Day. At my nephew's camp, the whole family got together for a picnic. It was only about ninety-eight degrees out there and incredibly humid, but still we had fun eating up the fried chicken, playing softball, and singing simple Hebrew songs at the top of our lungs. Grandpa, as helpful as ever at age seventy eight, had a full, wonderful day, too, of course— with seven of his eight grandchildren around to play with, walk hand in hand with, push on the swings, and carry off to sleep with his steady, rhythmic stride.

We were lucky to get Grandma and Grandpa in our car on the ride home. They were squeezed into the second row of the crowded station wagon, Grandpa playing "peek-a-boo" with his littlest grandson, in the car seat right next to him. We spent most of the trip back planning when our next visit together would be, talking about what new kosher restaurants had opened up near my parents' home, and finishing off every last crumb of the New York rugelach Grandma had brought along.

Grandpa's face was covered with beads of sweat Then, during a brief lull in the conversation, we noticed that the persistent little guy strapped in the car seat had been calling out, "Ganpa! Ganpa! Ganpa!" over and over again. How come Grandpa wasn't paying attention? My mother looked at him. The car was nicely air-conditioned, but Grandpa's face was covered with beads of sweat.

"Sol, does something hurt you?" my mother asked quickly.

"No," my father answered, never wanting to complain. But then, almost as an afterthought, he added, tapping on his chest, "I just feel a little pressure over here."

My mother: "He needs an EKG. Sol, should we get an EKG?"

My father: "No."

My mother: "He needs an EKG."

My father: "I'm OK."

My mother: "Should we go to a hospital?"

My father: "It's alright, Flossie. I just need to go to the bathroom."

My husband: "Should I get off at the next exit for you, Dad?"

My father: "No, I'll be alright."

My husband: "You're sure, Dad?"

My father: "Please, don't bother."

You have to be prepared- he's not the same My husband drove as quickly as he could, even through a sudden summer thunderstorm that echoed well the abrupt mood change in the car. When we made it home, my father walked slowly to the bathroom, leaning on my mother, who, with severe arthritis, had always leaned on him. When my father came out of the bathroom, he lay down on the nearest bed.

"Maybe we should go to the Emergency Room," I heard myself saying, "just to be on the safe side. Maybe this is what a mild heart attack is like." We left the children at home with a neighbor, got back in the car, and drove to the hospital.

"I don't want to be a bother." Those were my father's only words on the ride there.

He was admitted into the Emergency Room, and an hour later they called us in.

"Yes, he had a heart attack," the doctor told us.

"But it was a mild one, right?" We all seemed to ask at once.

"No, it was not a mild one," the doctor said. "It was a very serious one. He went into cardiac arrest two minutes after you got him here. His heart stopped, but because he was here, we were able to revive him using every method available. You saved his life by getting him here when you did."

The doctor told us we would be allowed to see my father in a little while. "He keeps asking for you," he said, looking straight into my mother's eyes for the first time. "But you have to be prepared. He's not the same. He's a very sick man now. And his brain has been affected as well."

As soon as we entered his room, my father saw my mother and he reached up his arms to her. "Flossie! Oy, my Flossie!"

My father, who never even got tears in his eyes, was sobbing uncontrollably. "My darling, Flossie! I've been so worried about you!" We could barely make out his words, he was crying so. "I couldn't go! I couldn't leave you! Who would take care of you? You need me! Oy, my Flossie, Flossie, I was so worried about you!" He kept repeating it over and over. "I have to take care of you!"

The doctors were trying to get him to calm down, but he had to say what he had to say. My mother and I just stood there with our tears dripping, staring at him. I looked up and saw that the two nurses in the room were also crying.

"Flossie, there must have been twenty people rushing all around trying to save me! You wouldn't believe the fuss they made over me. I didn't know I was this important!" My parents were hugging each other then, best as they could.

"I have to get better, Flossie," he was crying again. "I have to take care of you."

Days have passed. We sit in the hospital room with you hour after hour. They tell us your heart has suffered massive damage. Several major arteries were occluded and only twenty-percent of your heart is functional. They said the blood flow to your brain was also affected and that you will be a weakened man.

So here I am, alone this hour, looking at you, Dad. I smile. You smile back. I stroke your hand, running my fingers over your big blue veins, and feel the gift that you are to me- more than ever.

You are the same man who used to walk with me hour after hour, pacing back and forth across my bedroom whenever I had an asthma attack at night. The carpet in my bedroom actually got worn away in places from all the time you spent helping me to breathe more easily. That four-year-old girl, still a part of me, can so clearly hear your deep voice singing over and over, while pacing with me, "Put your head on my shoulder. You need someone to hold you..." My strong, cheerful Daddy.

Now I pull your hospital gown into place, to cover what needs to be covered, then wipe away the food on your chin that didn't make it into your mouth. "The only changeless thing in life is change," was your favorite saying when I was in the turbulent throws of adolescence. Why in the world did that always make me feel better? I want those words to comfort me now, too. Oh Dad, how you have changed.

"I couldn't go! I couldn't leave you!" It is hard for all of us to accept the new you. But we also feel miraculously lucky to have you. You are still the man with no expectations, always thankful with whatever you get. You're still the man who is delighted with very simple things, like a plain baked potato on your hospital tray. You really gave me the gift of happiness, showing me how to always focus on what is good - never wasting time being critical. And there is nothing like the devotion you have always given to Mom. Your own needs are genuinely unimportant to you. Do they still make marriages like yours today?

"Those were the days my friend..." You are singing to yourself again. You have been repeating that first line of your favorite song about 15 times, just in the last four hours since I've been here today.

"Dad, what is the next line?" I ask, not really expecting you to answer.

"We thought they'd...never end," you say, very slowly. "But they do. They do end, darling daughter."

I don't know what to say. I smile. You smile back. But then your forehead creases. Your bottom lip quivers. Tears are falling down your sweet, wise face. Because you can't give anymore- like you used to.

"The only changeless thing in life is change." Why do these words come out of me? "The days haven't ended, Dad," I am saying, "It's just another change."

Somehow, your tears stop. You squeeze my hand. Yes, it's just another change. Now I get to help you to breathe more easily.

And there'll be no expectations. Happy with whatever I get. That's how I have to be now, Daddy. Happy for any extra time I get with you.