I’m sure that my father was plenty afraid, but he never showed it, but once.
I sat in the standard hospital leatherette chair and knitted while he slept. Hour after hour. The monotony broken by thumbing through the stacks of books or hospital magazines like People and Newsweek. Mindless yards of knitting eased my nervous energy. His requests were simple. Black coffee and a piece of chocolate cake. The only problem was he couldn’t swallow well. The thicken coffee and soupy ice cream instead of cake made it easier to go down. My father’s recovery seemed to balance on the hope of getting him out of bed and moving. Since the fall and the subsequent severe shoulder injury, it was difficult and painful to move. With human assistance, two physical therapists would sit him up in the bed and swing his legs around to touch the floor. That is as far as it went. After days of existing in bed, he was too weak, refusing to move. The only hope was a hoist.
His condition had stabilized. He had some hard work ahead. With my abled body and mind this was not only necessary from my perspective, but possible for him. I was not ready to lose him. I thought he had the fight in him. My father was stubborn. If he was mad at you, his silence would last intolerably for weeks. “Come on Daddy, you can do this. It is going to be hard, but you are strong. You’ve got to do this. I love you. You’ve got to...so you can come home.” The pep talk drifted to a pleading and a begging. His gaze drifted from me. I did not want to believe that he had given up and I had convinced myself that I was a distraction. After being out of work and away from the family for more than a week, I decided to return.
The hoist was secured around my father’s body. I started walking out of the hospital room, turning back to say goodbye and that I would come back in a matter of days, “I love you Daddy.”
His eyes met mine. His sad brown eyes, eye brows knit together in fear and terror. Literally, my heart ached. I froze in place. I wanted to stay, but I left.
A few days later I returned, his eyes remained closed as he drew his last breath.
I have one regret, maybe I should have stayed.