“Hey, Dad. Here’s your milkshake. Dad? Are you coming out?” His roommate eyed the chocolate ice cream with big eyes and admitted that he would have loved some, too.
“Maybe. If I feel like it, ” said the muffled voice from under the blanket stretched over his head. He always sleeps like that.
The mother in me uncovered his head as the doctor walked in with a need to talk. I don’t like talking over covered people. Seems the doctor didn’t mind at all. He was blunt and unemotional.
“We’re sending him home. There’s nothing more we can do for him.”
“Could you come in the hallway,” I said as tears started to well. ” You can give me a list of things to do,” I said, making something up just to get him to stop talking as if my father didn’t understand, and to give me a minute to process what he was implying but refusing to say out loud.
“What if he panics and wants to come back to the hospital? Will he come back?”
“No. They can make him comfortable in the nursing home. It’s just a matter of time.”
It’s always a matter of time. It always has been. Hasn’t it?
When my sister died suddenly in 2005, there was no warning light that switched on that called for a sprint to make a few last memories. This time is different. I have time. The question for me is how to spend it?
Later in the afternoon I stood by his bedside an hour afer he’d arrived “home” by ambulance. I’d treasured watching and listening to him as he spoke by phone to my two brothers. He was so content.
We have a routine when we’re together now. We don’t talk much. He closes his eyes and I gently trace his face and forehead with my fingers. If we talk it’s about the upcoming football game or his favorite Alaskan Adventures show.
“Thanks, Bets,” he says a few times. They’ve become my two favorite words.
As I sat at the beach, watching the waves of the ocean, I remembered Kathy, my youngest brother, Kenny, who died when he was a few days old, and a few other people who’d been enjoying life on the other side for years. It was then that I realized that another homecoming is being prepared.
This time it’s for him.
“Kathy, he’ll be there soon,” I said, knowing she was there, grateful that I was finally opening up.
” Make sure you bring Kenny. I miss you guys. I wish I could be there to see his face,” I cried and laughed as I was reminded that there are always two sides to a story.
I’m not sad. I’m grieving. My heartstrings are stretching to bridge two worlds, as they should.
But my grieving is their anticipation. I’m excited for my dad and for them.
For now I’ll bring milkshakes and stroke his forehead, share phone calls, and collect stories- stories that will last me for a time.
My daughter was right. “It’s time. He has suffered a lot.”
So, the waiting game begins. The doctor said two weeks or so. But it could be years. You know?