There are two important details to mention before we get to the real meat of this story. The first, and probably more important of the two, is that my dad is a doctor. It's been that way since I was first born, and it honestly wouldn't be surprised to learn that he delivered me himself. I couldn't tell you exactly what his title is due to the fact that every different type of doctor has a different and more confusing name than the last. All I knew for most of my life is that when he went to work, it was his job to "fix people's tickers". Any time he would tell that to me when I was younger, he would use his nearly sausage-sized fingers to tap my chest with a little "tick tick tick" to accompany. It never failed to make me giggle.
The other fact you should know is that we loved WonderWorld. Now WonderWorld is the biggest amusement park within one hundred miles, and it's not an understatement to say that it was our families sole mission to visit WonderWorld as many times as possible every year. We all had our reasons for wanting to go; my brother always wanted to ride all of the big fast rides, I always wanted to play in the arcade (ski-ball being my go-to), and Mom and Dad wanted to make the kids happy. So from the minute the park opened in the spring to the minute it closed late in the fall, we would go every couple of weeks. My brother and I never realized just how crazy that amount of amusement park time was compared to others that only went about once a year. But we were goofy little kids, so we weren't bothered to think about it beyond the smiles on our faces whenever we loaded the car for our visit to the park.
Every year, every visit for my first twelve years was amazing. My brother would hop on "The Shoker" as many times as he could before he threw up (and then one or two more after), I would rack up tickets until I got the biggest bear in the prize booth, and Mom and Dad would carry our prizes and cotton candy with the biggest smiles the whole way. I couldn't tell you how many great memories I made during those summer trips. And then after twelve years of going to WonderWorld and having the same great time on every single visit, on the last trip of the year as the tree's started to turn, these two important details came together.
On that visit that we didn't know would cap the summer, we were making our way through the park as usual. Riding everything, buying the same snacks and toys as last time and the time before, and heading towards the on-site restaurant to get a hamburger before getting through the second half of the park. We were just coming into view of the building when I saw something that confused me: a group of people starting to surround something on the ground. I asked Mom and Dad what everyone was looking at and if I could go see it too, but then we got closer. I heard my Dad try to whisper "stay back here with the kids" as he dropped the toys he was carrying, bolting towards the herd. He pushed through the group until I couldn't see him anymore, I could only hear people whispering things that I thought my Dad was saying to them. Something about "room to breathe" and getting water. He stayed there for a long time, long enough that Mom thought it would be a good idea to go in and get some food and cool air. On the way in I kept looking over to try and see my Dad. I caught a peek through the peoples legs to see him holding a towel to a man's head with a bottle of water in his other hand. I asked Mom what he was doing a few times, but she only responded with "trying to help someone" while she pushed us towards the diner where we ordered our burgers and waited for Dad to come back.
Eventually he did after what seemed like an hour. He whispered a few more things to Mom, but did a better job this time so I couldn't really hear anything. It seemed to me like he wanted to keep whatever happened in the circle away from me and my brother, but I wasn't going to let him. I asked him what happened, I asked a few times in fact. At first Mom deflected it. She told us it had to do with work and it wasn't important, that when we were older we would understand. We had heard that too many times to count and it almost always had something to do with Dad's work. But then Dad did something he never had. He told mom that we had to learn sometime, that we were old enough to understand. He told us what had happened out there.
He kept it simple for us since we were still little kids. I don't know exactly how realistic he was being, and the story has stayed pretty much the same over the years since then, but it meant more than he knew to for him tell us about it instead of hiding it like usual. He told us about how the man was having a hard time handling the heat, and about how he hadn't been drinking as much water as he should have. He told us that the man's body needed to take a break whether the man wanted it or not, and how it decided to take that break without asking the man first. More than anything Dad told us that he would be fine. He had gotten the water and shade that he needed. As long as the man took it easy for the rest of the day and drank plenty of water, he wouldn't have any trouble at all.
I asked Dad if he had saved the man like a superhero, and he said no. I asked him if he learned how to do what he did at work, and he said kind of. I asked if he did things like that every day, and he said yes. After that we finished our lunch and decided to take the rest of the day off. The car ride home was different, I think Mom and Dad wouldn't stop worrying about us the whole way. They were a little bit more quiet than usual and I noticed, but I don't think my brother did. I didn't want to ask anymore about what happened, so I looked out the window and listened to the radio, all the way thinking about what Dad had told us.
That was the day I realized exactly what my dad did. He didn't just "fix people's tickers" by tapping on their chest with his sausage-fingers. He wasn't just some 'doctor' existing in an ocean of confusing titles. That was the day that I figured out my Dad is a Cardiologist, diagnosing and repairing people's hearts. Every day he did the same thing he did that day at WonderWorld by helping people in need. I always thought my Dad was the coolest guy on earth. But on that particular day in the early fall, my Dad went from being cool to being a hero.