May 15, 2001

DadandMe

The doctors have said there’s nothing else they can do, that it’s just a matter of time. My father is now in a semi-coma, silent and still for 3 days now. We anxiously hover and wait, unsure of how long it will be, unsure of what we should be doing.

It’s difficult to imagine the gray, motionless man in the bed is my handsome, larger-than-life, athletic Dad; the man who once played college basketball and proudly served in the Navy during World War II;  the man who once carried me on his shoulders constantly; the man who taught me to shoot a rifle at tin cans on a log and to throw a mean right hook.

I try to block all my emotions out and instead focus on taking care of my mother, making sure she eats and propping pillows behind her, so she is more comfortable in the hard hospital chair. I can’t make this problem go away, but I can at least make myself useful.

I pace the halls periodically to burn off nervous energy and I eat way too many Snickers bars from the hospital vending machine.  I can’t even remember when I last had a leisurely shower or meal. Dad has been sick for many months now; and our lives have been an ongoing parade of doctors’ appointments, surgeries,and medical tests, interspersed with me trying desperately to keep up with my demanding job. It’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs, our hopes raised, then dashed, then raised again, only to be dashed this final time.

But part of me still hopes for a last-minute, Hail-Mary miracle.

I wash my face in the sickeningly-green-tiled hospital restroom, and dry it with a rough paper towel.  I barely recognize myself in the mirror, the dark circles around my eyes purple enough to make me look like I was on the losing end of a street fight.

I return to the hospital room.  It is mostly dark, but my eyes gradually adjust to see my mother and my former partner sitting on either side of Dad’s bed, each holding one of his large hands. I blink back tears and swallow hard as I pull up a chair.

We remain that way for a while. I have no idea how much time passes. The only noises are my Dad’s labored breathing and the ever-present hospital sounds: constant beeping, doctors being paged, phones ringing, nurses’ voices. I fitfully doze for a while, and startle awake with a cramp in my neck.

My former partner takes my mother back to our house to rest at some point, and I am left alone in the room with my Dad.

Suddenly, I hear what I didn’t think I would ever hear again: my Dad’s voice.  “Do you see them?”, he says, his voice gruff and hoarse from disuse, but surprisingly strong.

I quickly stand up and lean over to be nearer to him.  “What, Dad? What do you see?”

He raises a shaky hand and points directly at the upper left corner of the darkened room.  I squint, but see nothing, so I repeat, “What do you see, Dad?”

“The angels”, he says, then goes back to sleep so quickly it is like he’s being dragged under.

The hairs on my arms are standing straight up. I sit down shakily, certain now that there won’t be a last-minute, Hail-Mary miracle to save my Dad’s life.

But I am starting to wonder if maybe there is another kind of miracle going on here after all…even though it’s one that only he can see.

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