Oct 09

Living for the Future

Each minute felt like an hour and so at some point I stopped counting. There was nothing else to do except wait. It was the most painful part.

The lights in the room were dim, the furniture bleak and the dark plaid carpeting old and worn, but I guess that was to be expected in a hospital waiting room. On the coffee table I found a clipboard holding children’s coloring book pages and a small box of four miniature colored pencils. The mindless filling in of the drawings was soothing. My mother paced in the hallway, waiting for the nurse to come, scared that if she went to the bathroom she would miss her.

The nurse did come and led us to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) waiting room upstairs. It was brighter and the seats were more comfortable. A doctor greeted us with “He has suffered a severe stroke.” His tone was dry and empty. He explained the details and then lead us to Patient Bed 5.

There he was. The right side of his body was limp, his lip drooped into a frown and his head lay cocked at a weird angle. He reached for my hand, and when I held his, he squeezed so hard that my fingers turned white. But I didn’t care because at least he was alive. “No hard questions”, they said. What they actually meant was your father cannot speak except to say “yes”,”no”, or “um”. I thought that the warm tears running down my cheeks were never going to stop. My brother Jake stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders. I had never seen my brother cry before.

That night Jake and I slept in the waiting room recliners with flat hospital pillows and blankets that did not keep us warm. I woke up periodically and slowly paced the bland oatmeal colored halls. At 3:00 a.m. sleep stopped, with no more drifting in and out, no more napping with my eyes closed. I was awake. I made my way to the family section of the waiting room and picked out a puzzle. The box cover of 300 pieces looked like a Van Gogh painting of a side street in France. It felt nice to take my mind off what was happening.

Until this experience at the hospital, I had never understood the feeling of denial, in the way that people wish something would change even though they know it is not possible. That day I spoke by hospital phone with the front desk woman in the ICU “Hi, I’m here to see David… This is his daughter.” I hung up and the automatic door opened. Maybe this time when I entered the room he would look at me and smile. Both corners of his mouth would lift and he would say my name. But when I walked around the ugly green curtain and saw the half smile and limp arm, I knew that I just had to accept what was happening. I held my father’s hand and took a nap with him, still wishing for the moment I would wake up from this dream. But it never came.

I wrote this essay while sitting on a teal fake leather recliner, next to Patient Bed 5 in the ICU on December 26, 2017. Throughout the past few days I have had plenty of time to think about the best way to move forward with my studies and college. Rather than dwell on the sadness of this event, I have chosen to be hopeful for the future. 
About the Author: vagabond.