I leaned over my father and looked him in the eye.

“I can’t promise you I won’t write about this,” I told him wryly.

He breathed out a light chuckle and gave a smile that was a grimace. I stepped back, and moments later, Hatzolah members carted him off to the hospital.

It was supposed to be a grand Shabbos. All my siblings had crammed together into my parents’ house — I can’t remember the last time we were all together — to celebrate my father’s 60th birthday. You can imagine the drill: lots of planning, an attempted collaborative Google doc that the Luddites turned into pen-and-paper lists, countdowns and stresses, but real joy and anticipation.

I showed up on Friday with three dips, two apple bettys, 16 bottles of sodas, one Costco-sized jar of pickles, and my five-page grammen. “Happy Birthday, Ta!” I called as I entered the kitchen. Everyone but my father was there. I went looking for him and found him in my parents’ bedroom. I pecked him on the cheek, wished him a hearty happy birthday. He beamed for a moment, then looked apologetic.

“I’m not feeling so well,” he admitted. “I’m very excited and happy about the party, but if I seem subdued it’s because I’m not feeling well, no other reason.”

I frowned, then perked up. “If green, take pink, Ta?” I kibitzed, alluding to my father’s tendency to self-medicate. I had even put a similar line in the grammen. My father shook his head. “No, it’s my chest.” He massaged the area below his collarbone.

“Refuah sheleimah, Ta,” I said, and left him to his peace and quiet.

Nobody thought more of it. There was too much prepping and laughing, and running after kids between licht bentshing and the men coming home. After lighting, my mother left to check on my grandmother, who was in the rehab center a block over, and would “be home in ten minutes.” Ten minutes my foot. And then the men came home, all six of them. My father struggled to climb the stairs, then slumped on a kitchen chair.

“You okay?” my older sister Malky asked. My father just sat there, breathing.

“We walked so slowly; Ta had to stop a couple of times,” my brother said.

Malky leaned into my father, “Should I call Hatzolah?” she asked as a formality, just to confirm that everything was okay, expecting Ta to wave his hand dismissively and say, “Nah, just give me a minute.”

But my father whispered, “Yes.”

Hatzolah was called, and my father said his pain was a nine out of ten. They gave him oxygen, he rated his pain as a zero. They did an EKG, which didn’t show anything unusual. They still wanted to take him to the hospital. “You don’t mess with chest pains,” a Hatzolah guy said. “And we’re concerned because the pain increased with movement and decreased with rest.”

It quickly turned into a story that I love to tell.