Dad said I was born with a sadness that lingered just under the surface. I think he spent his whole life trying to help me overcome it. But like the cancer that eventually took him, the malignancy within me just grew until it was so much stronger than I was.
It was the lake house that came to mind when I woke up…and Dad of course. That place always reminded me of him. I was in the hospital —again, hooked up to machines and IVs. I almost did it this time. I just wanted to be with Dad again.
My sister Trish was in the room, the usual disappointed look on her face. I had seen that look many times; it always made me feel so small. Mom stood by the window with her back to me, I know she wished Dad were here to help; she never really understood me the way he did.
“Mom, Trish?” I said, but they ignored me. Maybe this time I lost them for good.
The doctor arrived. He, Trish, and Mom huddled in the corner. No doubt deciding if I needed to be committed.
“Mom, Trish, please listen. This isn’t like last time. I promise I’ll stay on my meds and keep seeing Dr. Gable. Just get me out of here, please!
They ignored me. Guess they already decided what to do.
I thought about the lake house again. Those memories always calmed me. In those days, when the sadness hit, Dad would take me into the water; he’d hold me there and whisper “It’s okay honey, I’m here, and I won’t let you go.”
I must’ve fallen asleep, because when I came to, the room was empty. The only noise was that infernal ventilator beeping at me, reminding me of my mortality.
Trish came in and sat in a chair next to my bed. I wanted a cigarette so bad. I chuckled and confessed to her that I started smoking again. “Yeah I know, don’t look at me that way. It’s one of the few things that seem to help me. Just don’t tell Ma, please don’t tell her. You know how she feels about cigarettes —especially after Dad died. If she could, I’m sure Mom would ban the damn things.”
Trish said nothing, she was still angry, I suppose. Maybe she wouldn’t forgive me this time. She stood up to go.
“Trish, don’t leave, not like this!”
Just then, Mom walked in, looking every bit as worried as she did when we visited Dad in the hospital, after he had gotten so sick. She didn’t say so much as one word to me. Maybe Dr. Gable had convinced her that she couldn’t help me anymore. I tried pleading with her.
“Mom I was thinking about the time at the lake house, when Dad taught me and Trish how swim, remember? I miss him so much. I know you and Trish do too, Dad just had a way with me that always relaxed me. I’m not blaming you for anything, I know how hard you both tried. Mom, please talk to me, don’t ignore me. I’m sorry, I didn’t really want to hurt myself, I just wanted the sadness go away.
She looked right through me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but there were tears in her eyes. “Mom?” All I could manage was a whisper, than they were gone again, and I was alone with my thoughts. When I was feeling this way, it was the worse time for me to be alone.
Maybe I should’ve returned Trish’s calls when she phoned me a few weeks before. It was a terrible time for me though; curled up in a ball on my couch, unable to get up enough energy to clean myself, let alone answer the phone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially my overly judgmental sister. That would’ve crushed me.
Mom, Trish, and the doctor walked back in, they all stood over my bed discussing things.
“Is there any hope doctor?” My mother asked while holding my hand. Hers were so warm.
The doctor said, “By the time paramedics arrived, her brain had been without oxygen for far too long. We can keep her on life support, but there isn’t any brain function.”
What is he talking about Mom?! What does he mean no brain function?
Trish looked down at me crying, and said, “I wish I could tell her I’m sorry, and that I love her.”
“I love you too Trish. Can’t you hear me?! Mom, I’m alive, talk to me!”
“All right.” Mom said softly. “It’s time to let her go.”
“No, please don’t.” But no one heard me.
Mom and Trish stood in the back of the room, holding each other and crying. I had caused their pain this time, and so soon after the pain of Dad’s death —I felt horrible. “I’m so sorry.” I said, knowing they would never hear me again.
The doctor and a nurse gently removed the IV tubes, and turned off the ventilator. Their faces began to fade when the beeping sound of the ventilator, was replaced by the sustained high pitched squeal that signified death —than there was nothing.
I woke up at the lake house. Dad was swimming and he waved for me to come into the water —it was so warm.
Dad took me in his arms, but this time when he held me, it wasn’t to remove the sadness that was normally there, it was to welcome me home. And in that soft and gentle voice of his Dad said, “It’s okay honey, I’ve got you, and I’ll never let go.”