The phone rings. It is the girlfriend. Not mine personally. This one is yours dad. The hospital bed is available here near where I live. It will be yours to live in for the next month. “When will you be down to visit?” she asks. “I am on my way now.” I state.
The bus takes me to the south side of town. Actually it was a number of buses to get to my destination. So long to wait for it to pick me up, to travel through the city, to get off and wait again. Truly impatient to get to your bedside. My throat is closing, my mind is racing, my heart…is breaking.
The building is the University Hospital. It is night when I come through the doors and state my business to the information desk. They tell me what floor you are on. Up the old elevator, out those doors and down the hallway to your room. It is semi dark in there, like an old time noir film. The nurse behind the curtain that surrounds your bed is with you. I wait until she is done. There is another person here. The girlfriend. She tells me not to take too long . That you require rest.
Isn’t that what you have been doing this past year? I don’t understand. I was told a year ago that you had suffered a stroke and there wasn’t anything I could do. But asked not to visit. I was a single woman with a toddler and no means to travel to the town where you were. So there it is.
The curtain opens. The nurse is gentle with me. She takes my hand and brings me to your side and tells me to talk to you. “He may hear you it’s just that he cannot respond.” she states. “The stroke was massive.” They both stare at me while I look down on you. Having a hard time to process all what is happening. Another nurse comes in and she shows me your feet, that they are turning in. I don’t see what they see. That you going into a fetal position. They are explaining that you will soon go. That your time is near and for me to prepare.
This I remember. I stand at the foot of your bed and try to memorize your feet. They look like mine. Not the dainty feet my mother has but the knobby toes that I would be teased about. My gaze takes me to your face. It is not the face of my animated father but someone else. You don’t appear to be there. You are sleeping. The machines are making you breathe. It is too much for one person to bare. If I ever felt more alone it is now with everyone staring at me. I leave and go home.
My visits to your bedside are frequent but kept to a minimum when the girlfriend is there. It is a feeling on her part, like you are not to be shared. I don’t get it. There is no one to fully support me on this end. Not the new boyfriend. He likes to party. How fully he was into it I did not comprehend. So naive to that way. His friend and him used my space to have their fun and I let them. All that noise if you will dimmed the hurt that was invading my soul.
The call came after 2:35 am. You had passed. My heart broke. You know that feeling. We all share that. The quiet dead in our body. The standing still in our mind. Nothing. I don’t recall anything after that. I do know that time takes care of all the details. There is work to be done. Where are you to be buried. How to get you to High Prairie, AB? The minute details with the funeral director here in Edmonton.
At this time days after I am beholden to strangers for a ride to your home town a few hours away. I take Colin with me. My boyfriend. The baby is kept by my aunt while we are gone for two nights. I am not me. Does this make sense to anyone? I am here but I am not. It is out of body. We arrive at a distant cousin home. Their last name is Cunningham. I am being introduced to people who I have no memory of but they do indeed remember me. I get a lot of, “I knew you when you were this small.” They kept remarking that I resembled my dad. It was so strange. I knew they cared but it felt so foreign. So thrust out in the spotlight.
Feb 28, 1986 It is cold this night. I am impatient to see you. It is the wake and I am seated next to your sister Margaret. She has taken her place next to me. She is my rock, my support. Where did she come from? This is all a blur. The small room is dark and very quiet with the roomful of people. I don’t know what to expect. All I want to do is to run up to your casket. My aunt takes my hand. We walk up to you. You are dressed in your army uniform. Wearing your medals. I say to my aunt, “I was promised those medals” Telling me not to worry that she will make sure that I will get them before he is buried. She does indeed keep her promise. I sit down and cry.
March 1, 1986 Oh it is cold. Biting cold. I stand by the hearse and wait. I stand alone, feet away from you by the back door of the dark green vehicle staring into the back window. Finally they open the door and presently bring you to your graveside. Standing next to you I want to once again hold you in my arms, to tell you how much you were loved by me. That winter day bites into my legs. I am handed a package. It is your medals.
There is the standard luncheon soon after and there are many people brought to my table. Long lost relatives I was kept away from by my mother. They tell me stories about you dad. Still I sit there and it is almost that I cannot hear them. There is white noise in my head. The close relatives we stayed with overnight decide to go to the local bar. There is a country jam and I cannot comprehend that we just buried you and you want to what? go to a bar?? Because we are beholden to these people for a ride back to the house, we go.
The locals in this town all seem to know one another. They know each other’s business for the good and the bad of that. I listen to the gossip, some funny stories some sad and disturbing. I have that respectful demeanor happening right now. So timid. So afraid. One after another many acts come on the stage and it is the last that breaks me. He is a gapped tooth man. The town drunk I am told. Straggly hair tucked into a baseball cap. He saunters onto the stage. It is as if the crowd hold their breathe. And then he sings, “Honey, honey, honey won’t you open that door, this is your sweet baby, don’t you love me anymore, honey won’t you open that door?” But he presents it in a humorous manner that everyone breaks our laughing. Even me. I let loose, laughing loudly. My aunt smiles at me. I cry and laugh. Even through tears I laugh. It is that release, that sweet release I needed.
Dad it is Feb 2, 2019, almost 33 years since you passed on Feb 23, 1986 at 2:37 am. I miss you like crazy. Like now as I write this. I may have you energetically but it is not the same. I want to feel your hugs. Your kisses. The tug of your fingers on my nose as you try to pull it off. Those funny things that daddies do that love their little girls.
P.S. The image of this watch that belonged to my father was worn by me for close to a year when it suddenly stopped on the anniversary of his death, date and time. I woke the next morning and put it on and then seen the time. It has been that way since then.
#333 #Dreams #Visit
1 thought on “1986”
Thank you fro sharing your letter (story).. Stay warm my friend with wonderful thoughts of spirit.
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