Looking back, it was a situation comedy writers would struggle to dream up, wrought with “No Luck” humor and tragic undertones. But, from it, I made a more-than-memorable acquaintance.
Myssy and I were invited to spend four or five days in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, at the oceanfront home of my brother-in-law’s new wife’s father. Let that sink in: my brother-in-law’s new wife’s father. We lost my sister, Kelly, in 2000. She and Chip have two kids, Chloe and Logan, who were nine and six when she passed. A couple of years later, Chip was remarried to Marcy. At the time of the invitation, we had three small children: Evan, Audrey, and Claire. Chip and Marcy had a new boy, Brooks, and another on the way.
We love Marcy. We attended their intimate wedding on Daufuskie Island, and tried to keep the kids familiar and seeing each other as much as possible, though we lived four hours apart before they moved to Texas. Still, crashing the beach house was bringing the relationship to a new, potentially-uncomfortable level.
We arrived around noon on Saturday, meeting out for a casual seafood lunch. “Cappy” Cox, Marcy’s father, was spending the weekend on one of his boats up-coast, we learned. That evening I manned the grill, and we team-fed our large group – one of Chip’s sisters, Cindy, and her two daughters were there as well – a fun, relaxing dinner. I consumed a couple of beers, nothing to speak of for me.
Except that after we all went to bed – they’d given us Cappy’s master bedroom and bath – I became violently ill. Repeatedly ill, throughout the entire night. What was going on? I wasn’t food-poisoned – no one else was sick. Dawn came and I was empty but in excruciating discomfort. I couldn’t move without pain. I was given Phenergan to relieve my nausea symptoms, which were long passed, though it did help me get some rest. But by noon or so, yes, Mys touched my abdomen, vaulting me off the bed in pain. “Get your flops on” was her response.
Why, in all the days of my life – and they multiply out quickly – why this one day for an incident of this magnitude to occur? It couldn’t have been a more disruptive, un-fortuitous time.
Forty-five minutes after entering the doors of Carteret Medical Center, my appendix was being extracted. It was described as “gangrenous and ready to burst” by the doctor who removed it, a near-miss that could have led to weeks in a hospital bed. I felt so much better afterwards I would have kissed the man, given the opportunity. Chip and the kids came to visit me. Sitting by my bed, he was giddy with relief, the shared affection sort of forgotten territory for us both. He and Kelly were high school sweethearts, and he was like a big brother to me.
But, I was forty-four years old. Why, in all the days of my life – and they multiply out quickly – why this one day for an incident of this magnitude to occur? It couldn’t have been a more disruptive, un-fortuitous time. I pondered the trip down. My back was twinging with a little pain, but nothing more. I wrote it off as driving fatigue. No signs of what was about to happen.
I was released on Tuesday and had to gingerly keep myself dry for the rest of our stay. Sitting poolside with my legs in the water was my only plunge. Cappy, a quick-witted, lover of good times, had returned and ultimately found great humor in my condition. We toasted future health. I was able to join him and the group on a bumpy boat ride for lunch the following day, observing the majestic wild horses of the Outer Banks on the way.
As we packed to leave, Cappy assured me I was welcome to return, as long as I had a thorough physical examination before I came. Chip, Marcy and the kids ran out and had the above T-shirt made for me, “I left my appendix in Atlantic Beach.”
Cappy was his grandfather’s tag, for being the larger-than-life captain of his boats. It fit his personality well. I saw him a few more times through the years. He was always quick to smile, and to make others laugh. He lit up the room. He loved his daughters and all his grandkids immensely. On this day, he is being memorialized in his hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, gone at 71. Richard “Cappy” Cox, you were one of a kind, and you will be greatly missed.
Outer Banks photos contributed by Jay Drumheller, all rights reserved.