I came rushing in through the door. It was March, cold, but it wasn’t the weather that had me rushed. I had received a phone call the day before.
“Are you headed home soon?” asked Mom.
“Why? Is everything ok?” I responded.
“I just think you might want to get here sooner than later,” she said, pleading in her voice.
He was sitting in his chair, smiling and happy to see me, but unable to talk. My attention was only on him – the rest of the family in the room could wait. I hugged him and made a joke. “Couldn’t wait to see me, huh?” We always joked. But in this moment, I could only make a joke to mask my fear.
“Can you feed him?” Mom asked. “I have a quick errand to run to Wal-Mart and will be right back.”
“Of course,” was my reply, as I turned to face my Dad, “But he’d better not make a mess.” Success! I had made him smile again.
She started to cry and he managed to utter something that we translated as, you’ll be right back. I’ll still be here.
And he was. He ate; I told him about my trip. He made a mess and I loved him for it because I could help him. He was my hero – I wanted to say thank you with all of my words and actions. This was easy compared to all he had suffered raising me through my teen years.
“I love you, Dad. You’re going to be ok.” We both knew it was a lie, but we both accepted it because we wanted it to be the truth.
Later that night the phone rang. “Is everything ok?”
“Can you come back over?”
“Should I bring everyone?”
“No. Just you.”
When I got there, Dad was on his hospital bed, hooked up to his BiPAP machine. It helped him expel the CO2 from his lungs as he was not able to move enough air in and out on his own anymore. My mom shared that he asked to be moved into his bedroom just after I had left. He fell asleep and hadn’t woken up since. “This might be a long night,” she shared.
“I’m here,” I told her, and him.
I sat holding his hand for about an hour. I told him things that he knew and tried to muster up the courage to tell him a few things he might not have. I was a coward through it all. I never said what I really wanted to. I didn’t know if he could hear me. I preferred to remember him from earlier that morning. From my wedding day. From when I was ten. This wasn’t what I wanted to remember about this man who took on the role of being my Dad when no one else would.
What happened after is a blur. Not because it moved quickly, but because I don’t want to dwell on the agony of the events. What I do know is that I was there, for my Mom, with my Dad, when it was important. He waited to say good-bye. He stayed until I could see him one last time and hug him. Right up to the very end, he was my Dad. The best Dad a girl could ever have.